CDC warns of a deadly drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris: How does it spread?
(NEXSTAR) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified Candida auris as an “urgent” threat because it is spreading rapidly in US hospitals, tripling in just three years. The fungus is spreading “at an alarming rate,” the CDC says, but how exactly does it spread?
This fungus likely originated in a health care setting, explained Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of South Carolina. Unexpectedly, because hospitals are disinfected so frequently, they can be home to bacteria or fungi that are resistant to antimicrobial cleaning products and treatments.
“If you think about the amount of cleaning we do in hospital compared to what you do at home, it’s much more important in a hospital setting. So every time we spray Clorox…it just creates the opportunity for more resistance,” Nolan explained. “Over time, these pathogens were able to evolve and adapt to resistance.”
Candida auris is especially good at growing on surfaces, Nolan explained. Once it grows and grows in a hospital room, for example, it is more likely to infect a patient through a medical device, such as a catheter or PICC line that delivers drugs or fluids directly into the bloodstream.
“Imagine a patient hospitalized for two weeks, for example. Even if they clean those lines regularly, you still have the possibility of this pathogen getting into that plastic equipment and then entering your bloodstream,” Nolan said.
The fungus can also enter someone’s system through their ears or wounds, reports the Associated Press.
It could be transmitted through touch if someone touches an infected surface and then touches medical equipment that would enter a patient’s body. But people who are just visiting a loved one in the hospital or in a nursing home, for example, are not likely to be infected.
“It’s not highly transmissible like SARS-CoV-2 would be,” Nolan explained. “You really need to have this faded long exposure that has direct access to your skin.”
However, Candida auris is still very dangerous for those who catch it because it is resistant to antifungal medications, which makes it difficult to treat. An infection can lead to serious illness or death.
“If you are infected with this treatment-resistant pathogen, we cannot give you any treatment to help you fight it. You are on your own,” Nolan said.
To make matters worse, the people most likely to be infected with Candida auris – people who have been hospitalized for long periods of time – are likely already immunocompromised, so their systems may not be strong enough to fight off the infection. .
The fungus was first detected in the United States in 2016, but it began to spread particularly rapidly between 2021 and 2022. Since then, Candida auris has been found more than 8,000 times in at least 28 states, according to CDC tracking.
“The rapid increase and geographic spread of cases is concerning and underscores the need for continued surveillance, expanded laboratory capacity, faster diagnostic testing, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control.” , CDC epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Lyman said in a press release.
“It really highlights the fact that we need more antibiotics, more antifungals to get to market,” Noland added. “For the most part – with the exception of the antivirus that came out for SARS-CoV-2 – we haven’t had a new antimicrobial treatment in over 30 years. And that’s a real concern for us.
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