For the media

Should we worry about C. auris, a drug-resistant fungus?

By The Health News Team | April 18, 2023

Concern is rising about the spread of a drug-resistant fungus throughout the U.S. While Candida auris, also known as C. auris, is not a threat to healthy people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning that the emerging fungus, a type of yeast, is a risk for people who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in hospitals or other health care facilities.

Calling it “an urgent antimicrobial resistance (AR) threat,” the CDC reports C. auris:

  • Is often resistant to antifungal drugs

  • Spreads easily in health care facilities

  • Can cause severe infections

  • Leads to death for 1 in 3 people

In San Diego, more than 20 cases of C. auris have been reported thus far in 2023. In 2020, a total of just three cases were reported all year.

"Because Candida auris acquired an ability to be resistant to most of the available antifungal medications, treating infections suddenly becomes very challenging,” says Dr. Hai Shao, a board-certified infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “Additionally, people with infections can have a high mortality rate.”

Managing the spread of C. auris

According to Dr. Shao, C. auris causes bloodstream infections that can be difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods. Most people who become infected are already very sick with other illnesses. However, common signs of C. auris infection include fever and chills. If these symptoms are not relieved by antibiotic treatment, C. auris infection should be considered.

The best way to stop the spread of C. auris is through awareness of the potential for spread and thorough disinfection of health care facilities. It is also important for family members, close contacts and health care providers to clean hands with hand sanitizer or soap and water before and after touching a patient with C. auris or equipment in their room.

“Public health experts are rapidly working to better understand why C. auris is spreading and is resistant to antifungal medications,” Dr. Shao says. “In the interim, it is vital health care facilities remain diligent about identifying C. auris infections, monitoring spread and eliminating the presence of C. auris through rigorous disinfection practices.”

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