- CDC PHIL
- A fungus called candida auris is spreading around the world at an alarming rate. It’s resistant to drug treatments.
- Candida auris outbreaks often happen in hospitals and other health-care settings where the most susceptible people, or those with weakened immune systems, tend to reside.
- In a new op-ed in Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of doctors called on the health-care community to improve infection control practices and further study the dangerous fungus to stop its spread.
- As of May 31, 2019, there were 685 confirmed cases of candida auris in the United States alone.
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A deadly fungus that was first discovered in Japan in 2009 has spread across the globe at an alarming rate, worrying health experts because of its ability to resist treatments that were once able to stop it.
Now, a group of doctors is sounding the alarm, saying the spread of this fungus, called candida auris, should be a top concern for the health-care community because of its difficult-to-treat nature, according to their Monday editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Candida auris is a drug-resistant fungus that has learned to evolve so quickly it can’t always be stopped with the antifungal treatments available today. It’s one of many species of candida, a type of yeast that’s not always dangerous. In fact, one type, candida albicans, is present in human mouths, guts, and throats without causing any infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other types, however, can lead to infection if the yeast enters a person’s bloodstream or organs.
Candida auris outbreak are particularly disturbing because they often happen in hospitals and other health-care settings where the most susceptible people, or those with weakened immune systems, tend to reside. According to the CDC, the fungus can live on walls and other surfaces like furniture for weeks at a time, creating a major, yet invisible, threat.
“It is an urgent threat because many strains are resistant to at least two of the three major classes of antifungal drugs used to treat candida infections, and because it causes outbreaks in health-care settings to an extent not seen with other candida species,” the doctors wrote.
As of May 31, 2019, there were 685 confirmed cases of candida auris in the United States alone, but Colombia, India, and South Korea are also dealing with outbreaks.
Existing technology isn’t catching cases of candida auris early enough to stop it
According to the editorial authors, candida auris has become such a huge threat in large part because we lack the technology needed to identify it in its early stages.
“Candida auris can often be misidentified as another yeast when only biochemical methods are used,” they wrote, referring to a common laboratory test for living organisms. The authors added that “identification systems are improving.”
If candida auris is misidentified, it may not be properly contained and can spread, killing people in its wake.
The fungus spreads quickly and is often undetectable until it’s too late
Since most people who get the fungus are already sick and hospitalized, symptoms of candida auris, like a fever and chills, may be mistaken for symptoms of the diseases that landed them in the hospital in the first place.
Additionally, the fungus doesn’t always affect the same exact area of the body. In some cases, candida auris could lead to a bloodstream infection, but in others it could cause a wound or ear infection.
Healthy people typically do not become infected with candida auris, according to the CDC.
Due to the startling and unique circumstances that allow the fungus to thrive, doctors believe the best way to prevent its spread is to conduct more research on candida auris while also working harder in hospitals and other health-care settings to keep infected patients away from non-infected ones.
Additionally, staying on top of sanitation measures, like hand-washing and disinfecting areas where patients spend time, could prevent the spread, the doctors wrote.
As for patients, hand-washing and reminding health-care providers to do the same is the best way to protect against candida auris.