No, we’re not heading towards an apocalypse similar to The Last of Us. However, there is great cause for concern as a deadly super-fungus is spreading in the United States at an “alarming rate.”
At least that is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying.
Candida auris (C. auris), an emerging fungus considered an urgent antimicrobial resistance (AR) threat, spread at an alarming rate in U.S. healthcare facilities in 2020-2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Equally concerning was a tripling in 2021 of the number of cases that were resistant to echinocandins, the antifungal medicine most recommended for treatment of C. auris infections.
“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 CDC epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Lyman, lead author of the paper.
On the plus side, this lethal super-fungus is not usually a threat to healthy individuals.
However, people who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in healthcare facilities are at increased risk for acquiring C. auris, says the CDC.
Between 2019 and the end of 2021, the number people infected with the C. auris super-fungus more than tripled, while reports of asymptomatic cases also tripled.
C. auris has spread in the United States since it was first reported in 2016, with a total of 3,270 clinical cases (in which infection is present) and 7,413 screening cases (in which the fungus is detected but not causing infection) reported through December 31, 2021. Clinical cases have increased each year since 2016, with the most rapid rise occurring during 2020-2021. CDC has continued to see an increase in case counts for 2022. During 2019-2021, 17 states identified their first C. auris case ever. Nationwide, clinical cases rose from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021. Screening cases tripled from 2020 to 2021, for a total of 4,041.
Last month, four deaths in Mississippi were potentially linked to C. auris.
In Mississippi, patients with a C. auris infection are each assigned one nurse who cares for them exclusively, according to University of Mississippi Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Didion.
“That’s how dangerous this is,” Didion said.
“When we get patients from that facility (in Central Mississippi), we really have to be sure that we isolate them appropriately,” Didion added. “This particular organism is extremely transmissible and has a very high mortality rate.”