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Alarming Spread of Drug-Resistant Fungal Infection Candida Auris in Medical Centers

The Candida auris fungus is a rapidly spreading and urgent threat to public health in healthcare centers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. A new study has shown that cases of C. auris, which is resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, have been increasing annually since 2016, with the most rapid increase occurring between 2020 and 2021, as published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The number of C. auris infections has increased from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021, while the number of cases detected through screening has tripled, reaching 4,041 in 2021. Seventeen states identified their first case of C. auris between 2019 and 2021.

This alarming increase and geographic spread of cases underscores the need for continuous surveillance, expansion of laboratory capabilities, rapid diagnostic tests, and adherence to infection prevention and control measures, according to Dr. Meghan Lyman, epidemiologist at the CDC and lead author of the study.

Researchers are equally concerned about the number of infections resistant to echinocandins, the recommended antifungal drugs for treatment, which have tripled compared to the past two years.

Fungal infections can be fatal for patients in healthcare centers, especially for the most vulnerable, such as critically ill patients, those with invasive medical devices, or those with long or frequent stays in healthcare centers, the agency said.

Candida auris is a drug-resistant fungus that can cause outbreaks in healthcare centers, according to the CDC. The fungus can infect the bloodstream and can even lead to death by invading the blood, heart, and brain, the agency said. More than one in three patients die from this infection. Experts say that this pathogen is dangerous because it is often resistant to commonly used antifungal drugs for treating infections and is difficult to identify without specialized laboratory technology and is often mistaken for other infections.