The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an urgent warning about the rapid spread of Candida auris, a deadly fungal infection that is difficult to treat and poses a significant threat to people with weakened immune systems or those using medical devices such as catheters or ventilators. According to a recent CDC report, US cases of Candida auris nearly doubled from 756 to 1,471 in 2021, with the majority of cases resistant to anti-fungal treatment.
The US CDC has classified Candida auris infection as an “urgent antimicrobial resistance threat,” as it can cause severe illness or death and is particularly dangerous for vulnerable patients in hospitals and elderly care homes. The infection can spread through contact with affected patients or contaminated surfaces or equipment.
Invasive infections caused by Candida auris infections are fatal in one out of three patients, but it can be challenging to determine the exact role of the fungus in vulnerable patients. The most common symptoms of Candida auris are fever and chills that do not improve after treatment.
The rise in Candida auris infection cases is attributed to poor infection prevention in healthcare facilities and enhanced screening efforts, which have detected the surge in infections. The strain on healthcare and public health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic may have also contributed to the increase in cases.
The CDC emphasizes the need for continued surveillance, expanded lab capacity, quicker diagnostic tests, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control to address the rising number of Candida auris cases.
Dr. Meghan Lyman, the report’s lead author and a CDC epidemiologist, told CBS News that the increase “emphasizes the need for continued surveillance, expanded lab capacity, quicker diagnostic tests, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control.”
The World Health Organization has also recognized Candida auris as a “fungal priority pathogen,” and other countries have reported an increase in cases.
Dr. Paul Byers, Mississippi’s lead epidemiologist, identified a long-term acute-care facility as the center of the Candida auris outbreak in the state. He said, “Unfortunately, multi-drug resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent among our highest risk individuals, such as residents in long-term care facilities.”
In 2022, preliminary CDC data showed that there were 5 clinical cases of Candida auris infection. In more populous states like California and Texas, there were 359 and 160 cases, respectively. Nationwide, there were 2,377 clinical cases in 2022, which marks a significant rise from the 1,471 cases reported in 2021.
The CDC’s warning about Candida auris infection highlights the need for healthcare facilities to improve their infection prevention measures and for individuals to take precautions to protect themselves and others from the spread of the fungus.