A drug-resistant fungal yeast, Candida auris, is spreading throughout hospitals worldwide. Deemed “an urgent threat” by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), C. auris has infected more than 600 people in the United States as of March 29, 2019. Most of these cases were reported in the New York City, New Jersey, and Chicago areas. Cases of C. auris infections have been reported from multiple countries including Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Russia, Pakistan, and many more. It’s suspected that some of the cases in the U.S. came from patients who had recent stays in healthcare facilities in select countries abroad.
The first official case of C. auris was reported in Japan in 2009. According to the CDC, C. auris is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs that are commonly used to treat Candida infections making infections difficult to treat and deadly. The CDC estimates that more than 90% of C. auris infections are resistant to at least one type of drug, while 30% are resistant to two or more drugs.
While drug-resistant microbes aren’t unheard of, the way that C. auris is transmitted was shocking to medical providers. Typical Candida infections don’t spread from patient to patient; however, C. auris was found to remain on skin and surfaces for extensive periods of time. Extreme precautions must be taken to prevent the spread of the infection, and once exposed hospital rooms and equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected with specific materials recommended by the CDC.
The rise of C. auris infections has been seen in healthcare settings, due to the reasons listed above. In addition to its resistant to anti-fungal drugs and transmission, it impacts those with weakened immune systems and infections are commonly reported in wounds, bloodstreams, and ears. A study published last year in Emerging Infectious Diseases documented how deadly and invasive C. auris can be in a healthcare setting. Of 51 cases in New York from 2016 to 2018, nearly half of the patients died within 90 days of being diagnosed with C. auris infections. The threat of C. auris infecting healthy individuals is very low.