Drug-resistant Candida auris Fungus escapes containment, Invades Over Half of U.S. States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns about the alarming spread of Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungus that poses a serious threat to public health. C. auris resists treatment by common antifungal medications, and more than half of the 50 states in the US have reported clinical cases of the fungus. The pandemic has worsened the spread of C. auris, with less attention given to screening and the reuse of personal protective gear.

In this article, we will provide information on C. auris, its spread during the pandemic, and what actions are being taken to contain it.

What is Candida auris?

  • Candida auris is a type of fungus that can cause serious infections and is often resistant to antifungal medications. It was first reported in the US in 2016 and primarily preys on older people with weakened immune systems.
  • C. auris can be found on the skin, clothing, and medical equipment and can be transmitted in healthcare facilities, making it difficult to control.

Spread of C. auris during the pandemic

  • The CDC reports a dramatic increase in C. auris caseloads and transmission since the start of the pandemic. In 2021, state and local health departments reported 1,474 clinical cases, a 200% increase from the nearly 500 cases in 2019.
  • The fungus is now in half the 50 states, with higher concentrations in California, Nevada, Texas, and Florida. The reuse of personal protective gear and less emphasis on screening during the pandemic worsened the spread of the fungus.

Why is C. auris a serious threat?

  • Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to the CDC. C. auris is not a particular threat to young and healthy people but can be transported on skin and clothing.
  • The fungus commonly strikes older patients, particularly those who have many visits to health care facilities, where it can be hard to clean or eradicate. The challenge in treating C. auris stems from its resistance to antifungal medications, particularly echinocandins, which are frontline treatments.
    • If resistance to echinocandins becomes more common, C. auris could become extremely difficult to treat, if not impossible.

Actions being taken to contain C. auris

  • The CDC is taking steps to contain the spread of C. auris. Intensive efforts in New York and Illinois have been effective in containing the fungus within the healthcare systems in those states.
  • The CDC recommends that healthcare providers screen patients for C. auris, particularly those who have stayed in hospitals abroad or for extended periods. Healthcare facilities should follow infection prevention and control practices to reduce the spread of the fungus.

The spread of Candida auris during the pandemic is alarming and poses a serious threat to public health. Healthcare facilities and the public should take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the fungus. The CDC recommends increased screening, infection prevention, and control practices to contain the fungus.

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