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Candida auris, deadly fungal infections spreading at alarming rate; CDC warns

Clinical cases of Candida auris, an emerging fungus considered an urgent threat, nearly doubled in 2021, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Written By: Health Desk New Delhi Published on: March 25, 2023 22:14 IST
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Image Source : FREEPIK Deadly fungal infections spreading at an alarming rate

Candida auris case counts have increased for many reasons, including poor general infection prevention and control (IPC) practices in healthcare facilities. Case counts may also have increased because of enhanced efforts to detect cases, including increased colonization screening, a test to see if someone has the fungus somewhere on their body but does not have an infection or symptoms of infection. The timing of this increase and findings from public health investigations suggest C. auris spread may have worsened due to strain on healthcare and public health systems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases of Candida auris also expanded geographically. Although it was initially confined mostly to the New York City and Chicago areas, Candida auris is now present in more than half of US states. Between 2019 and 2021, 17 states identified their first cases. The CDC has called Candida auris an “urgent threat” because it is often multidrug-resistant, easily spreads through healthcare facilities and can cause deadly diseases. It is also resistant to some common disinfectants and can be carried on people’s skin without causing symptoms, facilitating its spread to others.

According to WHO, “Fungal pathogens are a major threat to public health as they are becoming increasingly common and resistant to treatment with only four classes of antifungal medicines currently available”. Transmission of the fungus within the US is largely driven by “poor general infection prevention and control practices in healthcare facilities,” the authors of the new study say. Most spread happens in post-acute care facilities and ventilator-capable skilled-nursing facilities.

According to preliminary CDC data, there were 5 clinical cases of Candida auris in 2022. 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 would be a marked rise from the 1,471 cases in 2021. Last year, the World Health Organization included it on its list of "fungal priority pathogens".

 

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