FORT MYERS, Florida – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning that Candida auris (C. auris), a fungus that is resistant to most antifungal drugs and can cause severe infections with high death rates, spread at an alarming rate in U.S. healthcare facilities in 2020-2021.
Equally concerning was a tripling in 2021 of the number of cases that were resistant to echinocandins, the antifungal medicine most recommended for the treatment of C. auris infections.
In general, Candida auris is not a threat to healthy people. People who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in healthcare facilities are at increased risk for acquiring Candida auris.
The CDC has deemed Candida auris as an urgent AR threat, because it is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, spreads easily in healthcare facilities.
“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 CDC epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Lyman, lead author of the paper.
Candida auris fungus has been spreading across the US since it was first reported in 2016, with a total of 3,270 clinical cases and 7,413 screening cases reported through December 31, 2021.
The number of clinical cases has increased every year since 2016, with a sharp rise during 2020-2021.
There has also been an increase in case counts for 2022. From 2019 to 2021, 17 states identified their first-ever case of Candida auris.
Clinical cases increased from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021 nationwide, while screening cases tripled from 2020 to 2021, totaling 4,041.
It is important to conduct screening to prevent the spread of Candida auris by identifying patients carrying the fungus so that infection prevention controls can be used.
Researchers attribute the rise in Candida auris cases to a variety of reasons, including poor general infection prevention and control practices in healthcare facilities. There may also be an increase in case counts due to enhanced efforts to detect cases, such as increased colonization screening.
Investigations suggest that Candida auris‘s spread may have worsened due to strain on healthcare and public health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people who get serious Candida infections are already sick from other medical conditions.
Candida auris is still rare in the United States. People who get invasive Candida infections are often already sick from other medical conditions, so it can be difficult to know if you have a C. auris infection.
The most common symptoms of invasive Candida infection are fever and chills that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection.
Only a laboratory test can diagnose C. auris infection. Talk to your healthcare provider if you believe you have a fungal or healthcare-associated infection.