(USA Today) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling an emerging fungus an “urgent threat” after a new study showed it has been spreading at an “alarming rate” throughout health care facilities.
Cases of Candida auris (C. auris), which is resistant to several antifungal medications, have increased each year since it was first reported in 2016. Its most rapid rise was in 2020 to 2021, according to the study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
- Cases detected through screening tripled from 2020 to 2021, totaling 4,041.
- Cases that caused infection rose from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021.
- 17 states identified their first case of C. auris ever between 2019 and 2021.
“The rapid rise and geographic spread of cases is concerning and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance, expanded lab capacity, quicker diagnostic tests, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control,” said lead author Dr. Meghan Lyman, an epidemiologist at the CDC.
Researchers were equally concerned by the number of infections resistant to echinocandins, the antifungal medication recommended for treatment, which tripled compared with the previous two years.
Fungal infections can be life-threatening to those most at risk in hospital settings, including patients who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in health care facilities, the agency said.
What is Candida auris, or C. auris?
Candida auris is a drug-resistant fungus that can cause outbreaks in health care facilities, according to the CDC.
The fungus can infect the bloodstream and even cause death by invading the blood, heart and brain, the agency said. More than 1 in 3 patients die from such an infection.
Experts say the pathogen is also dangerous because it’s often resistant to antifungal medicines commonly used to treat infections. It’s also difficult to identify without specialized laboratory technology and is often mistaken for other infections.
The agency said C. auris was first identified in 2009 in Asia and has quickly spread throughout the world. Since it began spreading in the U.S. in 2015, reported cases have increased more than 300%.
Candida auris infection symptoms
C. auris doesn’t always cause infection and can be carried on a patient’s skin, the CDC said, allowing easier spread to others.
But when it does cause infection, the agency said, it may be difficult to identify because it most often occurs in patients who are already sick with other diseases and exhibiting symptoms.
The CDC says fever and chills that don’t improve after giving antibiotics are the most common symptoms of C. auris.