Candida auris, the deadly fungus spreading across the United States
The fungus, Candida auris, is a form of yeast that is generally not harmful to healthy people, but can pose a life-threatening risk to fragile patients in hospitals and nursing homes. Picture file.
A dangerous new fungus has now spread across half the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that Candida auris was spreading at an “alarming rate” and described the fungus as an urgent antimicrobial resistance (AR) threat.
Let’s take a closer look:
What is this?
The fungus, Candida auris, is a form of yeast that is generally not harmful to healthy people, but can pose a life-threatening risk to fragile patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream.
The fungus can live on surfaces for several weeks, according to the CDC.
It was first identified in Japan in 2009. It has since spread to more than 30 countries, according to NPR.
Last year, the World Health Organization added Candida auris to its list of “priority fungal pathogens”, according to BBC.
The United States had its first case in 2013, but it wasn’t reported until 2016. That year, US health authorities reported 53 cases of Candida auris.
The new study found cases continued to rise, rising to 476 in 2019, 756 in 2020 and then 1,471 in 2021.
In 2022, Candida auris infected at least 2,377 people, according to the The Wall Street Journal.
According to the newspaper, Mississippi has seen a dozen such cases since November.
“Unfortunately, multidrug-resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent among our most at-risk individuals, such as residents of long-term care facilities,” said Tammy Yates, spokeswoman for the health department. of the state of Mississippi. NBC News.
According to the CDC, between 30 and 60 percent of those infected died from the yeast. However, the agency notes that the statistic is “based on information from a limited number of patients.”
Many of the first cases in the United States were infections that had been imported from abroad, but now most infections are spreading within the United States, the authors noted.
Certain strains of Candida auris are called superbugs that are resistant to the three classes of antibiotics used to treat fungal infections.
According USA today, the most common symptom of Candida auris is fever and chills that do not improve after antibiotics are given.
“What scares Candida auris and all drug-resistant fungal infections is how hard it is to find good, safe antifungals, because humans and fungi are made of the same stuff,” says B. Price, professor of environmental and occupational health. and the founder and co-director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University said USA today.
Price added that the rise in cases and the increase in drug-resistant strains could be caused by the overuse of antifungals in agriculture.
Although it can be identified by testing bodily fluids, it is difficult to differentiate it from other fungi, making a misdiagnosis likely, according to the CDC.
“Hospitals need to step up and screen patients for drug-resistant strains, isolate them, be on top of their game in infection control,” Price added.
COVID-19 likely helped spread, experts say
The COVID-19 pandemic likely drove some of the increase, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote in the article published Monday by Annals of Internal Medicine.
Hospital workers have been strained by coronavirus patients, which likely diverted their attention from disinfecting other types of germs, they said.
Doctors have also detected the fungus on the skin of thousands of other patients, making it a risk of transmission to others.
“The rapid increase and geographic spread of cases is concerning and underscores the need for continued surveillance, expanded laboratory capacity, faster diagnostic testing and adherence to infection prevention and control. proven,” CDC epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Lyman said as quoted by NPR.
With contributions from agencies
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