Department of Health

Rare fungal infection identified in Victoria

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

A Victorian man has been diagnosed with the rare fungal superbug Candida auris.

Victoria's deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Brett Sutton said it is the first known case of the organism in Victoria.

"As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services is working very closely with health services and public health laboratories to take a 'search and destroy' approach to ensure it does not spread within health facilities or cause an outbreak," Dr Sutton said.

"The man in his 70s is being cared for in a Melbourne hospital for a pre-existing condition. All infection control precautions are being taken to prevent any spread.

"The man was isolated as soon as the diagnosis was made and intense cleaning and disinfection has occurred.

"Routine screening of other patients on the hospital ward will now take place, although it is unlikely that others have been exposed because the patient was cared for in a single room.

"This patient has not been infected by the condition, but has been colonised. It is likely that the C. auris was acquired in a UK hospital," Dr Sutton said.

C. auris can cause serious infections such as bloodstream, wound and ear infections.

Some people can carry C. auris on their body without realising it, as they have no symptoms and do not become unwell. This is called colonisation.

C. auris is much less common than other types of candida such as Candida albicans which can cause yeast infections such as thrush.

However, C. auris can cause problems in hospitals and nursing homes as it can spread from one patient to another or nearby objects, allowing the fungus to spread to people around them.

Dr Sutton said C. auris is also often highly resistant to medicines, making it very difficult to treat.

"To prevent the fungus from spreading, patients who were contacts in two hospitals are being screened to see if they may now be carrying the fungus.

"Fortunately, most people who carry C. auris do not get sick from it. Getting tested for C. auris will help prevent the spread," Dr Sutton said.

Vulnerable patients are particularly susceptible to C. auris, and can develop severe and potentially fatal infections. Almost all healthy people are unaffected and do not need to be concerned about coming into contact with the fungus.

Discovered in 2009, C. auris has spread quickly and caused infectious in more than a dozen countries.

A Chief Health Officer's alert has been issued advising health services of the case and the steps clinicians can take if they suspect a patient maybe affected by the fungus.

Further information about C. auris can be found on the Better Health Channel.

Reviewed 07 August 2018


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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