Deadly Fungal Infection a Growing Concern in U.S. Hospitals

Deadly Fungal Infection a Growing Concern in U.S. Hospitals

A deadly and highly drug-resistant fungal infection that U.S. clinicians warned about last June continues to spread in the United States, and nearly 3 dozen people have been diagnosed since the first warnings went out. [1]

Since 2009, the fungus, Candida auris, has been reported in a dozen countries after first being identified in a patient in Japan. In addition to the U.S., the fungus has been found in Colombia, India, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Korea, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

Read: First Cases of Drug-Resistant Candida Auris Spreading in U.S. Hospitals

Candida auris is not your normal fungal infection. It can cause serious bloodstream infections, can be easily passed from person to person in healthcare settings, and can live for months on skin and for weeks on hospital equipment, including bed rails. Some strains are resistant to all 3 major classes of antifungal drugs. Thus far, the infection has killed 60% of patients identified in the U.S., though many of them also had other underlying illnesses.

The monster infection is especially risky for people who have been in intensive care for a long time, or who are on ventilators or have central line catheters inserted into a large vein.

New York tops the list of U.S. states with the largest number of Candida auris cases. Some 28 people have been diagnosed there, according to the CDC. The other cases were reported in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Eighteen other patients were found to be carrying the organism but weren’t sickened by it.

Four of the first 7 cases reported to the CDC last fall, 4 patients had bloodstream infections and died within weeks or months of the infections being identified. Those patients all had other serious underlying conditions, and health officials said they can’t be certain that they died from fungal infections. Five patients had the fungus initially isolated from blood, 1 from urine, and 1 from the ear.

Natural Society
Source: National Geographic

Alarmed by the spread of the fungus, the CDC last June sent an urgent alert to clinicians to start looking for infections, which are hard to catch using standard laboratory methods.

Tom Chiller, the CDC’s top fungal expert, says:

“As soon as we put out that alert, we started getting information about cases and now we know more about how it spreads and how it’s acting.”

The number of cases now gets tracked by the CDC and is updated every few weeks.

During a briefing in Washington last week about the growing danger from antimicrobial resistance, Anne Schuchat, CDC’s acting director, said:

“These pathogens are increasing, they’re new, they’re scary and they’re very difficult to combat.”

Candida auris differs from regular Candida infections (better known as yeast infections) in that it can survive in dry conditions for a day or more. [2]

Dr. Riina Rautemaa-Richardson, a researcher at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, said beating the pathogen requires more than the traditional cleaning methods.

“You have to wash and scrub, and not just put alcohol gel on equipment.”

The CDC advised health officials in January to isolate patients found to be infected with Candida auris.


[1] The Washington Post

[2] Newsmax

National Geographic