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U. expert weighs in on C. auris — deadly fungal infection

Candida auris, a potentially lethal fungus, is affecting health care facilities and at-risk patients internationally. – Photo by @FOX2News / Twitter

Candida auris (C. auris), a contagious fungal infection, has rapidly spread through U.S. medical facilities and has the potential to constitute an international health risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The fungus is difficult to identify without appropriate lab equipment and has already spread through health facilities in the past. Those seriously at risk of infection include nursing home residents and people that use feeding and breathing tubes or lines, according to the CDC's website

Not only is the fungus hard to detect, but it is also resistant to different antifungal drugs. Darin Wiesner, an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said the fungus is currently repelling preliminary medicines.

"C. auris is already completely resistant to the cheapest and easiest to administer antifungal (drugs) and is evolving resistance to the other two available classes of antifungals," he said.

The fungus is defined as a type of yeast that can cause infections in the bloodstream, wounds and ears. It was first found in Japan in 2009, and the first case in the U.S. was detected in 2013, according to the CDC website. The CDC states that 30 to 60 percent of infected people have died.

Globally, the CDC states that C. auris has been documented in more than 30 different countries and could be spreading undetected throughout others.

In the U.S., the CDC recorded 2,377 cases in 2022, with states like New York, California, Texas and Illinois recording the highest number of cases of this disease. 

"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," said Meghan Lyman, a CDC epidemiologist.

The largest populations with the disease so far are in health care settings due to the high amount of unhealthy individuals. Hospitals are now increasing their precautions in order to avoid a worse outbreak, according to the press release.

Though some hospitals are equipped to monitor and identify this fungus, other clinics may not have sufficient resources for an effective response.

This discrepancy makes the infection difficult to identify with standard laboratory procedures and methods, resulting in misdiagnoses that may lead to individuals getting treated for the wrong illness, according to the CDC.

The pandemic also strained health care facilities in treating this disease, according to the press release.

To remediate the situation, the CDC is administering aid for medical professionals on how to treat the disease and collaborating with state health care providers to provide necessary medical equipment, according to the CDC website.

The CDC is also currently securing funding through the American Rescue Plan Act to help supply local and state-level facilities, according to the press release. Wiesner said helping smaller health care facilities can aid the greater effort worldwide.

"Providing resources to smaller clinics will allow for the detection of colonized or infected individuals which will help prevent the spread of C. auris and improve treatment for infected patients," he said. 

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