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Scientists discover 'superbug' on Andaman Islands that can cause next pandemic

Clear evidence of Candida auris, a multidrug-resistant organism, has been found in what scientists are terming as a 'landmark discovery'. C. auris is also known as a 'superbug' as it is able to resist main anti-fungal treatments

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | March 18, 2021 | Updated 16:13 IST
Scientists discover 'superbug' on Andaman Islands that can cause next pandemic
The report says that the COVID-19 pandemic has offered the "perfect conditions for widespread outbreaks" of C. auris

The COVID-19 outbreak is far from over. In fact, daily fresh coronavirus cases have been increasing in several states as of late. In the middle of all of this, scientists have found traces of a "superbug" on remote sandy beaches of the country which could potentially trigger the next deadly pandemic.

Clear evidence of Candida auris, a multidrug-resistant organism, has been found in what scientists are terming as a "landmark discovery". C. auris is also known as a 'superbug' as it is able to resist main anti-fungal treatments. This study was published in the journal mBio on March 16. The report says that the COVID-19 pandemic has offered the "perfect conditions for widespread outbreaks" of C. auris.

A research team led by Dr Anuradha Chowdhary of Delhi University studied 48 samples of soil and water which were collected from eight natural sites around the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

The research team then isolated C. auris from two sites. These were - a salt marsh wetland which is seldom visited by people and a beach with more people visiting.

"It was found the C. auris isolates from the beach were all multi-drug resistant and were more closely related to strains seen in hospitals compared with the isolates found in the marsh," Live Science quoted Chowdhary as saying in a statement.

The researcher found that the C. auris isolated from the salt marsh was not drug-resistant and grew at a slower pace at high temperatures in contrast with the other isolates. This suggested that the isolate could potentially be a "wilder" strain of the 'superbug'.

Dr Arturo Casadevall, chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore explained that the isolate might be one that is yet to adapt to the body temperatures of humans and animals. However, the study was not able to prove that the 'superbug' lived naturally on the islands or that it had originated from there. It is possible that the 'superbug' could have been transferred on the islands by people especially at the beach site since it is regularly visited by humans.

"C. auris survives on the skin before entering the body through wounds. Once in the bloodstream, it causes severe illness and can lead to sepsis -- a condition that kills up to 11 million people a year globally," the World Health Organisation said about the 'superbug'. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that the 'superbug' can cause serious bloodstream infections. It added that the 'superbug' can especially infect people who require catheters, feeding tubes or breathing tubes.

"This infection can be difficult to treat because the microbe is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs; and it can also linger on environmental surfaces," Live Science reported.

Also Read: 10% COVID-19 vaccines will be wasted, says Centre; to cost Rs 1,320 crore more

Also Read: Over 5,000 vaccine doses wasted in 5 states so far

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