What You Need to Know Candida Auris, a Dangerous Fungal Infection That’s on the Rise

Learn the signs and symptoms of this “hearty” fungus, and how to protect your loved ones.

Candida auris is getting a lot of buzz lately after reports surfaced that the dangerous fungal infection is cropping up around the world—including in the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has named it a “global emerging threat,” given that it can cause serious infections and even death.

In the U.S., Candida auris has shown up in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, and it has the potential to spread, says infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Here’s what you need to know about this mysterious infection—and why it should at least be on your radar.

What is Candida auris, exactly?

Again, Candida auris (aka C. auris) is a fungal infection. “The average person calls Candida infections yeast infections,” says William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. However, Candida auris infections are much more serious than your standard yeast infection. “They’re a variety of so-called super bugs,” Dr. Schaffner says. “Candida auris infections can complicate the therapy of very sick people.”

It’s also a hearty fungus and can be difficult for medical facilities to get rid of once it takes hold, Dr. Schaffner says.

Why is Candida auris so concerning?

Candida auris is often hard to spot and identify, according to the CDC. It’s also sparked outbreaks in healthcare settings, like hospitals and nursing homes.

But one of the biggest concerns about Candida auris is that it’s often resistant to several drugs that are commonly used to treat Candida infections, says Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and an associate professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University. “This has lead to a higher mortality compared to other fungal infections,” he says.

Most Candida auris infections are happening among people who are already sick, like cancer patients, those in ICUs, and elderly people in nursing homes, Dr. Adalja says. “This isn’t an infection that strikes people out of the blue,” he says.

However, plenty of people have the infection colonized on their skin and it’s started jumping from person to person, which is why the infectious disease community is so concerned.

candida auris pictures 
A 2018 photo of the yeast candida auris in a petri dish.


What are the symptoms of Candida auris?

This is where things get a little tricky. The most common symptoms are a fever and chills that don’t get better with antibiotic treatment, the CDC says. But, given that people who develop the infection usually have another underlying illness, it can be tough to spot Candida auris from symptoms alone.

Once it takes hold, the fungal infection can get into a person’s bloodstream or wounds and cause serious health issues like sepsis. “A patient’s temperature may go up, their blood pressure can go down, and they have complications of a preexisting illness because of Candida auris,” Dr. Schaffner says. The fungal infection has a high mortality rate (more than one in three patients with invasive Candida auris die, according to CDC data), but it’s tricky for doctors to say whether a person died from the fungal infection or their underlying illness. “Whatever the cause, having Candida auris doesn’t help a patient in any way,” Dr. Schaffner says.

How can you prevent Candida auris?

In general, it comes down to “meticulous infection control,” Dr. Adalja says. That means that hospital and nursing home rooms need to be well cleaned and that people interacting with patients need to practice good hand hygiene, which will kill the infection. “There’s no other way to prevent it,” Dr. Adalja says.

People who have been hospitalized for a long time, have a central IV or other lines or tubes entering their body, or have previously been given antibiotics or antifungal medications seem to be at the highest risk of contracting the infection, which is why Dr. Schaffner recommends having a conversation with doctors to make sure that, if antibiotics are being used, they’re necessary. “Excess use of antibiotics are providing an environment in which Candida auris can occur,” he says.

In general, the average healthy person doesn’t need to stress about Candida auris, Dr. Adalja says. But if you or a loved one are hospitalized for a long time, it’s definitely something you need to be aware of.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a27074966/superbug-fungus-candida-auris-symptoms/

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