A partially drug-resistant fungal infection that has popped up in Canadians hospitals and elsewhere had caused doctors and scientists trying to find answers on how to stop its spread. 

The infection called Candida auris has been referred to as the latest super bug and has seen outbreaks of infections in hospitals and long-term care facilities around the world, predominantly among patients with weakened immune systems. 

Canada has had a total of 20 cases from 2012 to June of 2019 according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Six  of those cases were in Quebec or Ontario between 2012 and 2017, and the rest in western Canada between 2014 and June 2019.  

Of the 20 cases, none have been reported in Saskatchewan according to Dr. David Torr, a consulting medical health officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. 

"It's one of the resistance microbes we have on our list that we look out for because these are resistant bugs that can cause infection." 

Torr said that if the bug happened to make its way into the province, he believes that due to procedures in place, a serious outbreak wouldn't occur. 

"We have very good infection-control measures in pretty much all of our facilities and encourage private homes to form similar kinds of protocols to make sure we don't have infections spreading within our facilities or between the residents of facilities or within hospitals," he said. "We have four programs on infection control which really help with that. We have regular staff in-services to make sure that they know what proportions to take. Staff have very stringent proportions of infection control. What they need to wear when they are attending to this patient or in contact. We have very good processes in place and we have good monitoring." 

He said that in the case of this bug, they were aware of its existence and its dangers before it made its way into the province. 

 "It is an increasingly-global issue and the world is now a small village pretty much, because you can get anywhere in the world anytime, so what happens or what is identified in another country we also make sure we are minimizing the risk of that coming into our own environment and if it does and making sure that we minimize and eliminate and potential spread of such an infection." 

Torr ran through what happens in a hypothetical situation when a patent presents a sign of an infection. 

"They (staff) know to take precautions. For all staff to handle anything if you're cleaning the wound, use gloves, know how to dispose of the material after they address them. How to clean the utensils, and how to clean a room after a procedure has been done on a potentially infectious patient. That is all put into place there, specific protocols. Even the lab staff will be aware there is a potential infection, they will take the appropriate precautions when taking samples." 

"The specimen themselves, they're all sealed, then they can go for testing, transported in specialized equipment and boxes so that there is no potential for any spread of whatever infectious material are is there," Torr continued. "The same in the laboratories themselves when they're doing the testing. They also have protocols to make sure that they themselves don't get infected. Once the lab test is done, we can identify what is going on. Many a time it might be one that we know about that's not necessarily resistant to medication can be treated. The feedback goes back to the unit that's treating the patient, they make sure they have the appropriate treatment and problem solved.” 

The infection remains relativity rare, but the fungus can cause infections, including of the blood, wounds, and ears. 

It has three main features that make it worrisome to health-care professionals. It's tricky for some laboratories to identify, it can be hard to treat successfully when it invades the bloodstream, and it's frequently resistant to one or more classes of anti fungal medications that doctors turn to first. 

 

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