In 2020–2021, the CDC published an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine about Candida auris (C. auris), an urgent Antimicrobial Resistance (AR) threat that was spreading rapidly. However, as of the end of 2021, the number of people diagnosed with a C. auris infection had tripled, indicating a significant escalation.
Cases of Candida auris have now been reported in 30 states across the US and the District of Columbia. The resistance of the Candida auris fungus to multiple antifungal drugs makes treatment challenging in many cases.
However, C. auris typically does not pose a threat to healthy individuals. Instead, the infection can be life-threatening for people with weakened immune systems, particularly those who are severely ill or have been hospitalized for an extended period. Therefore, individuals with compromised immune systems are at an increased risk of experiencing severe illness caused by Candida auris.
How It Spreads
CDC scientists have reported that the rapid spread of C. auris can be attributed, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in overcrowded hospitals, staff and equipment shortages, as well as inadequate infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in healthcare facilities. Infectious disease expert Monica Gandhi has stated that C. auris can enter the body through the skin, catheters, or IV lines and can lead to serious illness once it enters the bloodstream.
Candida yeasts come in many different types, and the majority of fungal infections, regardless of their severity, are caused by one of them. While most of us can coexist with some of these yeasts, others can pose a significant threat to our health, as is the case with C. auris.
Normally, the fungus is expected to temporarily colonize the skin of a healthy person without causing any issues, making it difficult for individuals to tell if they are carrying the fungus without being tested. Additionally, C. auris can also be present in the gastrointestinal tract without producing any symptoms, complicating efforts to control its spread.
How The Situation Is Being Handled
According to a press release by the CDC, Dr. Meghan Lyman, an epidemiologist, expressed concern over the rapid rise and geographic spread of C. auris cases, emphasizing the need for increased surveillance, lab capacity, and quicker diagnostic tests, as well as adherence to proven infection prevention and control measures.
However, Dr. Lyman also expressed confidence that measures can be taken to slow the spread and reduce case numbers in the US, including increased screening for colonization and informing local responses. The CDC has been working with territorial, local, and state health departments to strengthen their laboratory capacity and effectively address this emerging threat to public health, thanks in part to supplemental funding supported by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Healthcare facilities have been advised to maintain rigorous infection control practices, including hand hygiene, environmental cleaning, and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
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