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A recently detected drug-resistant fungus in China, Candida auris, is not likely to cause an epidemic in China, said a leading expert, so the public shouldn"t panic.

"Studies show that the chances of infection by the fungus are very low. It only infects patients with weak immune systems, such as cancer patients after chemotherapy or patients who have undergone organ transplants," said Xiao Yonghong, a professor specializing in infectious diseases at First Affiliated Hospital of Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. "Efforts for control and prevention of the fungus should be focused on patients with low immunity."

Xiao, who is also a member of a committee of experts that advises the National Health Commission, said that compared with some other drug-resistant organisms Candida auris is not the most serious health threat, but it deserves attention because it"s relatively new and not enough is known about it.

"Hospitals should intensify monitoring to prevent and control the fungus," he said.

The fungus, which is resistant to multiple drugs, was first discovered in 2009. It has spread to more than 20 countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, which describes it as a "global emerging threat".

In the US, 617 cases of the fungus had been reported by the end of March, the center said. Invasive infection of the fungus leads to death in more than 1 in 3 cases, it said.

In China, 18 cases of Candida auris have been confirmed since its first appearance in a 76-year-old patient last year, Liao Wanqing, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, was quoted as saying by China Newsweek on Wednesday.

Most patients with the infection experience fevers and may have organ and respiratory failure, Liao said.

He said attention should focus on early prevention, quarantine and treatment, but he added that, based on monitoring, the possibility of an outbreak in China is low.

The emergence of superbugs resistant to multiple drugs - the result of excessive use of antibiotics - has grabbed public attention, and experts in China and abroad have been calling for reduced use of the drugs in recent years.

Xiao, the infectious disease specialist, said it is crucial that patients have more knowledge about antibiotics and avoid using them except when genuinely necessary. He noted that the use of antibiotics in Chinese hospitals is steadily declining.