A drug-resistant fungus known as Candida auris or C. auris is rapidly spreading throughout healthcare facilities in the United States, according to a recent government study.
This yeast can lead to severe illness in individuals with compromised immune systems, and the number of reported cases and positive screenings has been escalating at an alarming rate since its first appearance in the country.
The study’s primary author, Dr. Meghan Lyman, who serves as the chief medical officer in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, expressed deep concern regarding the recent surge in cases, particularly in previously unaffected areas.
Mississippi is currently battling an outbreak of the drug-resistant fungus Candida auris (C. auris), with at least 12 reported cases and four “potentially associated deaths” since November 2021, according to the state’s health department.
Although ongoing transmission has been identified at two long-term care facilities, cases have also been reported at several other facilities in the state.
According to a new CDC report, the number of C. auris infections in the US increased by 59% to 756 cases from 2019 to 2020 and then by an additional 95% to 1,471 cases in 2021.
The incidence of individuals carrying the fungus without being infected increased by 21% in 2020 and by 209% in 2021, with 4,041 cases in 2021 compared to 1,310 in 2020. The study found that C. auris has now been detected in more than half of US states.
What is Candida Auris?
Candida auris (C. auris) is a type of yeast that can cause infection and illness in humans. It was first identified in Japan in 2009, although the earliest infection is believed to have occurred in South Korea in 1996.
Since its identification, unrelated strains of the yeast have been found in multiple countries worldwide, including the United States.
The yeast can enter the bloodstream and spread throughout the body. Treatment is often complex because most people who become seriously ill with C. auris already have an acute or chronic condition.
Signs and symptoms of Candida auris infection
Symptoms of a Candida auris fungal infection can vary depending on the location and severity of the infection.
However, most infections are related to the bloodstream, wounds, or ears.
Common symptoms include fever, chills, low blood pressure, skin rashes, and severe body pain. In some cases, the fungus can cause invasive infections that can damage the internal organs, leading to severe illness and potentially death.
Additional risk factors include:
- leukemia, lymphoma, or any other blood cancer
- any condition that weakens the immune system
- previous treatment with multiple antibiotics
- a catheter, breathing tube, feeding tube, or any other inserted medical tubes and devices
Treatment options for Candida auris infections
The most effective way to treat C. auris infections is through antifungal medications, specifically echinocandins, which are typically prescribed by doctors. However, some C. auris infections can be resistant to all forms of antifungal medication, including echinocandins. In such cases, doctors may prescribe high doses of multiple antifungal medications.
It’s essential to note that treatment of C. auris infections may require a combination of antifungal drugs, and the infection may require extended treatment durations to avoid recurrence.
The management of C. auris infections should be conducted by a specialist, such as an infectious disease physician or a microbiologist, to ensure the appropriate treatment is provided.
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