- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sounding the alarm over rising cases of Candida auris, a fungus that is resistant to a number of medications and can kill people who are already sick.

The agency this week said the fungus has begun to spread at an “alarming rate” in U.S. health facilities, raising the need for better infection control. Compounding the worries, the number of cases resistant to echinocandins — the most common antifungal medicine to treat Candida auris — tripled in 2021.

“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,” CDC epidemiologist Meghan Lyman said.

Candida auris is a type of yeast that can enter the bloodstream and spread through the body. Healthy people are not usually harmed by it, but it can kill those who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in healthcare facilities.

Nursing home residents and those who recently were in nursing homes and have tubes that go into their bodies appear to have the highest risk, the CDC said.

Fever and chills are the most common symptoms once the infection becomes invasive. But the fungus can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones, and other parts of the body. The CDC said 30%-60% of people with Candida auris infections have died, though it cautioned the percentage is based on a limited sample and many of the patients had serious underlying illnesses.

Cases of the fungus, which was first discovered in 2009 in Japan, have risen each year, from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021. The CDC said cases continued to rise last year.

Candida auris can spread from person to person through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces or equipment.

The CDC theorizes the increase in cases is caused by generally poor infection control in health care facilities. It also said clinicians are getting better at detecting cases, so counts are climbing.

The pandemic also might have caused enough upheaval to worsen the situation.

“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,” the CDC notice said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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