Candida Auris, a mysterious yeast-like fungus, emerged on the healthcare scene in 2009 and has rapidly spread to become a global threat. This fungus has proven to be incredibly resilient, persistent, and deadly, leading to global health alert calls, with the WHO identifying it as one of the top priority pathogens. Its resilient nature and ability to resist numerous antifungal drugs have made it difficult to treat, causing increased concern in healthcare settings. This article explores what Candida Auris is, how it spreads, and what people need to know about this dangerous fungus.
Candida auris, a dangerous drug-resistant fungus, has been spreading at an alarming rate in the United States over the last few years. According to a study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers, the fungus has tripled in case numbers over the last three years, and more than half of U.S. states have now reported it. While Candida auris is not harmful to healthy people, it is a potentially deadly risk to fragile hospital and nursing home patients. It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears, and the bloodstream. Some strains are superbugs that are resistant to all three classes of antibiotic drugs used to treat fungal infections.
The new study published Monday by the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that Illinois was among the states with the highest number of reported cases through the end of 2022, reaching between 100 and 500 cases. Even though the fungus can be treated with certain antifungal drugs, some infections have grown resistant to all three classes of medications, “making them more difficult to treat.” Some infections can be fatal, and limited data has shown that 30-60% of people with such infections have died.
Candida auris is most often spread in health care settings via contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment. However, it can also spread from person to person. More work is needed to further understand how it spreads. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely responsible for part of the increase as hospital workers were strained by coronavirus patients, which likely shifted their focus away from disinfecting some other kinds of germs.
The fungus was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been seen in more and more countries since. The first U.S. case occurred in 2013, but it was not reported until 2016. That year, U.S. health officials reported 53 cases. The new study shows that cases have continued to shoot up, rising to 476 in 2019, to 756 in 2020, and then to 1,471 in 2021. Doctors have also detected the fungus on the skin of thousands of other patients, making them a transmission risk to others. Many of the first U.S. cases were infections that had been imported from abroad, but now most infections are spread within the U.S.
Post-COVID fungal infections, though rare, have been reported during the pandemic, particularly in those with compromised immune systems. “So it’s very rare, but it has been described,” according to Dr. Kamal Singh, chair of microbiology and virology at Cook County Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that “COVID-19-associated fungal infections can lead to severe illness and death.” The news of rising infections, however, comes amid concerns over the spread of another fungus and amid heightened awareness following the popularity of the hit show “The Last of Us.” According to a recent study, “a fungal disease endemic to the southwestern United States” known for causing valley fever is projected to spread east over the next several decades due to warming temperatures.
In conclusion, Candida auris is a serious fungal infection that poses a significant threat to public health. The fungus is highly resistant to commonly used antifungal drugs and can easily spread from person to person, making it a cause for serious concern. With increasing numbers of infections being reported worldwide, it is essential to remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to avoid infection. If you have any concerns or symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. With continued research and education, we can better understand and control the spread of Candida auris and protect the health of our communities.