Deadly New Fungal Infection

Another antibiotic-resistant threat is here; health care settings appear to be the target

There is a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection emerging globally that health officials are warning about.

So far, there have been 13 cases of candida auris (C. auris) identified in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This fungal infection is significant but thus far seems to prey on hospitalized persons with underlying conditions,” said one infectious disease expert.

Seven cases occurred between May 2013 and August 2016 in Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. All of the patients had serious underlying medical conditions and had been hospitalized an average of 18 days when C. auris was identified; four of these seven patients, all with bloodstream infections, died.

In two instances, two patients had been treated in the same hospital or long-term-care facility and had nearly identical fungal strains. These findings suggest that C. auris could be spread in health care settings, the CDC reports.

The other six cases “were identified after the period covered by the report and are still under investigation” — which means they were discovered after Aug. 31, or within the past few months.

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“This fungal infection is significant but thus far seems to prey on hospitalized persons with underlying conditions,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a board-certified infectious disease physician at the University of Pittsburgh.

Adalja said it’s not only hospitals that need to be aware of the new threat of a potentially fatal fungal infection — the general public also needs to be mindful of hospital infection-control practices.

“It appears C. auris emerged for unclear reasons, but increased antifungal use and better diagnostics may be part of the reason behind these events. The fact that this fungi has been detected on multiple continents reinforces the global nature of infectious disease and the interconnectedness of humans,” Adalja told LifeZette.

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Most at Risk for C. auris” source=””]Limited data suggest the risk factors for candida auris infections are generally similar to risk factors for other types of candida infections. These risk factors include recent surgery, diabetes, broad-spectrum antibiotic and antifungal use, and central venous catheter use. Infections have been found in patients of all ages, from preterm infants to the elderly.[/lz_bulleted_list]

The CDC is warning C. auris can cause invasive infections, is associated with high mortality, and is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs. It was first discovered in 2009 after being isolated from the external ear canal discharge of a patient in Japan. The challenge of emerging antibiotic-resistant threats like C. auris, the CDC states on its website, “highlights the need for urgent, coordinated federal, state, local, and international public health response and the importance of CDC’s AR (Antibiotic Resistance) Solutions Initiative.”

“Emerging infectious disease can take various forms and we are continually going to see emergence occur,” said Adalja. “It is vital that we prepare for these events though robust surveillance systems, rapid responses from the biomedical community, and adept public health leadership.”

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