An invasive fungus has been spreading at a “alarming rate” throughout healthcare institutions, according to a new study, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to declare it a “urgent hazard.”
Since it was first discovered in 2016, cases of Candida auris (C. auris), which is resistant to a number of antifungal medicines, have risen annually. It rose most quickly between 2020 and 2021.
From 2020 to 2021, the number of cases found through screening increased, reaching 4,041.
Infection-causing cases increased from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021.
Between 2019 and 2021, 17 states reported the first-ever cases of C. auris.
Lead author Dr. Meghan Lyman, an epidemiologist at the CDC, noted that “the rapid growth and geographic spread of infections is troubling and underscores the need for continuing surveillance, improved lab capacity, speedier diagnostic tests
The number of infections resistant to echinocandins, the antifungal prescription advised for treatment, increased over the course of the preceding two years, raising similar concerns among researchers.
According to the organisation, people who are most at risk for developing fungal infections in hospitals are those who are very ill, have invasive medical devices, or remain in hospitals for extended periods of time or frequently.
Let’s know more about Candida auris, or C. auris
Candida auris is a type of fungus that can cause serious infections in humans. It belongs to the Candida family of yeasts, which are normally present on the skin, in the mouth, and in the gastrointestinal tract of healthy individuals. However, Candida auris can cause infections that are difficult to treat and can be life-threatening, especially in people who have weakened immune systems or who are already ill.
Candida auris was first identified in 2009 in Japan, and since then, it has been reported in more than 30 countries around the world. It has become a serious global health concern due to its ability to cause outbreaks in healthcare settings, its resistance to multiple antifungal medications, and the difficulty in identifying and treating infections.
Candida auris infections are often associated with healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. People who are hospitalized or who receive long-term medical care are at increased risk of developing infections, and Candida auris can survive on surfaces in healthcare facilities. Person-to-person transmission of Candida auris can occur through direct contact or contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment.
Causes of Candida auris infection:
Fungal Pathogen: Candida auris is a type of fungus, and it is a member of the Candida family of yeasts. It is a pathogenic fungus, meaning that it can cause infections in humans and other animals.
Healthcare-associated infections: Candida auris infections are often associated with healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities. This is because people who are hospitalized or who receive long-term medical care are at increased risk of developing infections, and Candida auris can survive on surfaces in healthcare facilities.
Person-to-person transmission: Candida auris can be spread from person to person through direct contact or contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment. This is particularly a concern in healthcare settings where patients may have compromised immune systems or be receiving treatments that increase their risk of infection.
Antibiotic resistance: Candida auris has been shown to be resistant to multiple antifungal medications, which makes it difficult to treat. This resistance is likely due to overuse and misuse of antifungal medications, which has led to the development of drug-resistant strains of Candida auris.
Environmental contamination: Candida auris can survive on surfaces and equipment in healthcare settings for long periods of time, which can contribute to the spread of infection. Environmental contamination can occur through improper cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment, as well as through poor ventilation and overcrowding in healthcare facilities.
International travel: Candida auris has been reported in multiple countries around the world, and international travel has been identified as a potential risk factor for infection. People who travel to countries where Candida auris is more common may be at increased risk of infection, particularly if they have underlying health conditions that increase their risk of infection.
Unknown origins: In some cases, the source of Candida auris infection may be unknown, and it may be difficult to trace the origin of the infection. This highlights the importance of surveillance and monitoring of Candida auris infections to identify outbreaks and prevent further spread.
Candida auris is a pathogenic fungus that can cause healthcare-associated infections and is difficult to treat due to its antibiotic resistance. Prevention measures, such as good infection control practices and proper use of antifungal medications, are important to reduce the incidence of Candida auris infections and prevent the development of drug-resistant strains.
Common symptoms of Candida auris infection may include:
Candida auris can cause infections in different parts of the body, and the symptoms can vary depending on the location and severity of the infection
Fever: A high temperature is one of the most common symptoms of infection, including Candida auris. Fever is the body’s response to an infection and is often accompanied by chills.
Skin rash: Candida auris can cause a rash on the skin, which may be itchy and red. The rash can occur in different parts of the body, such as the armpits, groin, and neck.
Ear infection: Candida auris can cause ear infections, which may result in hearing loss. Symptoms of ear infection may include ear pain, discharge from the ear, and a feeling of fullness in the ear.
Respiratory symptoms: Infections in the respiratory system, such as pneumonia, can cause symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Bladder and kidney infections: Candida auris can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), which may result in pain or discomfort during urination, frequent urination, and cloudy or bloody urine.
Gastrointestinal symptoms: Infections in the gastrointestinal tract can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Organ failure: In severe cases, Candida auris infections can lead to organ failure, such as liver failure or septic shock. These symptoms are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention.
It is important to note that not everyone who is infected with Candida auris will experience all of these symptoms, and some people may not show any symptoms at all. Additionally, the symptoms of Candida auris infection can be similar to those of other infections, so it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.
Prevention measures for Candida auris infection:
Good infection control practices: Good infection control practices are essential to prevent the spread of Candida auris in healthcare settings. This includes frequent hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, using personal protective equipment such as gloves and gowns, and properly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
Patient isolation: Patients who are infected with Candida auris should be isolated to prevent the spread of the infection to other patients. This may involve placing the patient in a single room, using special precautions when transporting the patient, and limiting contact with other patients and healthcare providers.
Antifungal stewardship: Antifungal stewardship refers to the appropriate use of antifungal medications to prevent the development of drug-resistant strains of Candida auris. Healthcare providers should prescribe antifungal medications only when necessary and use them at the appropriate doses and durations.
Surveillance and monitoring: Healthcare facilities should conduct active surveillance and monitoring of Candida auris infections to identify outbreaks and prevent further spread. This may involve screening high-risk patients, such as those who have recently received antifungal medications or who have been hospitalized for extended periods of time.
Education and training: Education and training of healthcare providers and patients are important to prevent the spread of Candida auris. Healthcare providers should receive regular training on infection control practices and the appropriate use of antifungal medications. Patients and their families should also receive education on how to prevent the spread of infection, such as practicing good hand hygiene.
Environmental cleaning: Proper cleaning and disinfection of the environment is important to prevent the spread of Candida auris. Healthcare facilities should use EPA-approved disinfectants that are effective against fungi and follow proper cleaning protocols.
Outbreak management: In the event of an outbreak of Candida auris, healthcare facilities should implement outbreak management strategies to quickly identify and isolate infected patients, conduct surveillance and monitoring, and implement infection control measures to prevent further spread.
It is important to note that preventing the spread of Candida auris requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach that involves healthcare providers, patients, and healthcare facilities. By implementing these prevention measures, we can reduce the incidence of Candida auris infections and prevent the development of drug-resistant strains of this dangerous fungus.