Candida Auris Stealth Killer on the Rise in Healthcare Settings

Since it was first identified in 2009, Candida auris has challenged healthcare providers—more so now, as cases are on the rise. C auris is one of the specific invasive fungal diseases (IFD) on the radar of public health experts, particularly because of how easily this fungus lives and spreads in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare settings.

The highly contagious fungal infection remains viable for months on the skin and for prolonged periods on surfaces. Managing the spread of C auris is difficult because it can withstand common disinfectants and isn’t easily detected on many standard tests. Treatment is challenging as C auris is highly resistant, with some cases found to be pan-resistant to all three major classes of antifungal medications.

As many as 90% to 95% of patients colonized with C auris are asymptomatic while still spreading the yeast to others and making them sick. The mortality rate from C auris can be as high as 60% according to a recent article in JAMA. This is especially distressing for people who are immunocompromised as they are at greater risk of being infected with it and similar fungal infections, according to public health experts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) last year created a priority list of fungi that pose the greatest emerging threat to public health. Despite the increase in cases of fungal infections, they also warn that global health systems are not well-prepared or equipped to treat people infected with these organisms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also encouraged health authorities to improve detection and treatment methods for these infections, especially in vulnerable populations.

New antifungal medications and even vaccines are being researched to help prevent these infections, but public health experts urge vigilant surveillance and response plans at all healthcare facilities. The CDC suggests that every healthcare facility has a plan to identify and manage Candida infections in order to prevent large-scale outbreaks. 

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