Warning over drug-resistant 'Japanese fungus' superbug
Microbiologists are on the alert for a drug-resistant superbug that has spread to 55 hospitals in the UK.
Candida auris - or Japanese fungus - has been diagnosed in more than 200 patients there.
Three hospitals have been hit with what is described as "large outbreaks".
While the bug can be dangerous for patients with weakened immune systems - such as those undergoing cancer treatment - no deaths have been reported so far. However, hospital chiefs are concerned because the bug is resistant to the fungicidal drug fluconazole and has been shown to rapidly evolve and develop resistance.
Tests are under way in the UK involving various disinfectants and antiseptics to control the bug, which can live on the skin as well as inside the body.
According to Public Health England, around 50 patients were diagnosed with the bug despite not showing symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which tracks infectious illnesses here, said it has not detected any cases of the bug here to date.
However, it is liaising with Irish microbiology labs "to highlight the emergence of Candida auris as a cause of outbreaks in healthcare settings abroad".
"We are reasonably confident in our capacity to identify Candida auris if it causes serious infection in a patient in Ireland.
"The infection control measures required to control spread of this organism are very similar to those required to control spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," the HPSC said in a statement to the Irish Independent yesterday.
Hospitals in Pakistan, Venezuela, Columbia and India have been plagued with prolonged outbreaks of the bug since it was first identified in 2009.