SINGAPORE – A total of 16 cases of Candida auris infections were reported in both private and public hospitals in Singapore since 2012, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday (May 6).

In a written reply to two Parliamentary questions, Mr Gan said investigations showed that the cases were not linked and there has not been any report of the drug-resistant fungus being spread locally.

Last month, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said that there were 11 isolated cases in public hospitals.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), referring to the emergence of viruses, bacteria and fungi which are resistant to standard drugs and treatments, is a “global public health issue”, Mr Gan said.

“While AMR can occur naturally in some microorganisms, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials such as antibiotics globally in healthcare, as well as the animal and agricultural sectors, have led to accelerated development of AMR.

“Due to increased global connectivity, there is a growing risk of AMR being spread internationally. Singapore, being a global travel hub, is exposed to the importation of AMR organisms.”

Several measures have been put in place to address the development and spread of AMR in Singapore, Mr Gan said.

These include regulations on the prescription and sale of antibiotics to minimise the risk of misuse and overuse, as well as public education campaigns on the proper use of antibiotics, such as the Health Promotion Board’s “Use Antibiotics Right” campaign last year.

In public hospitals, there are also antimicrobial stewardship programmes to guide doctors to use antimicrobial drugs appropriately, as well as infection prevention and control measures to reduce the risk of spread of antimicrobial-resistant organisms, Mr Gan added.

He was replying to Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC) who asked whether the MOH would revise its measures to deal with superbugs like Candida auris and how preventative measures would be strengthened in hospitals and clinics here.

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Workers’ Party Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera also asked what measures were being planned to ensure that public confidence in hospitals here remains high.

Mr Gan said: “Notwithstanding these measures, we can expect infections with antimicrobial-resistant organisms to occur from time to time as microbes can naturally acquire AMR and antimicrobials still need to be used for treating infections.”

“Healthcare institutions must therefore remain vigilant in surveillance and maintain high levels of infection prevention and control to prevent spread of AMR. MOH also works with healthcare institutions to monitor antimicrobial resistance and healthcare-associated infections.”

Enhanced measures in education, surveillance, research, infection prevention and control, and the optimisation of antimicrobial use are being progressively implemented under the national strategic action plan on AMR launched in 2017.

But he added that individuals also play a part in using antibiotics and antimicrobials prudently.

“We encourage patients and consumers to consult doctors on the best course of medical treatments, take antimicrobials according to doctor’s advice and only when indicated,” he said.

“Every one of us must also practise good personal hygiene to protect ourselves from infection.”

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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