A multi-drug resistant yeast, which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned can cause invasive infection and death, has been around in India since 2011, health experts said here on Monday.

Candida auris, a fungus belonging to the candida family, has been creating a scare after drug-resistant variants were discovered at tertiary healthcare facilities in the US and the UK, among other countries. The bug was said to be present in Indian hospitals since 2011, according to the experts who isolated the drug-resistant pathogen.

In a recently issued circular, CDC cautioned that the yeast shows high levels of resistance to all three major classes of anti-fungal drugs, limiting the options available to treat the patient. As on March 29, a total of 617 C. auris infections were reported from the US hospitals, according to CDC.

Read More: Candida auris: When hospitals become a source of infection

M Shivaprakash Rudramurthy, a medical microbiologist with the Chandigarh-based Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, said the major issue is that “once it gets into a hospital, it stays forever.”

As a result, patients can remain colonised with the fungus for a long time. Besides, the pathogen is capable of surviving on hospital paraphernalia such as mattresses, bedrails, windowsills for long, making it possible to spread among patients.

According to him, there are hospitals in the country where a large number of patients in intensive care units getting infected by the fungus.

Anuradha Chowdhary, professor of medical mycology at the Vallabhbhai Patel Chest Institute, in New Delhi, one of the first medical scientists in the country to study C. auris , said that almost 90 per cent of the fungal isolates were found to be resistant to fluconazole, the standard antifungal drug of choice in many countries. The bug is also developing resistance to other anti-fungal drugs, but only 5 to 7 per cent of isolates. “The problem is that there are only very few anti-fungal drugs currently available in the market. That is the worry,” Chowdhary told BusinessLine.

A study by a team led by Chowdhary in 2013 found that C. auris accounted for 5 per cent of all infections caused by fungi belonging to Candida family in a paediatric hospital in Delhi and 30 per cent among adult patients in another tertiary care hospital. According to Chowdhary, the first case of C. auris reported in India was from 2011.

Rudramurthy, however, said it was wrong to say C. auris is more fatal than other fungi belonging to the Candida family and there were several instances of patients recovering from the infection without being treated for it. But the problem is the emergence of the pathogen that is resistant to multiple drugs, which may pose a serious heath risk, he said.