According to the CDC, the deadly fungus Candida auris was linked to the death of four patients residing in U.S. hospitals.

Candida auris is one of the latest antibiotic-resistant fungus, a new group of bugs that have been the cause for concern of public health specialists for several months. The fungus was first identified in the U.S. back in 2013 out of a single case. Since May 2013, 13 patients have been diagnosed with Candida auris infection. All of the patients suffered from more severe illnesses other than the fungal infection.

Candida auris is a fungus that can cause invasive infections, is associated with high mortality and is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image Credit: CDC

Four patients died while infected with the disease, although doctors have not confirmed whether the cause was their illness or the fungal infection.

Other countries have placed a 50 percent fatality rate for Candida auris bloodstream infection, which has also been regarded as a pathogen with high potential of causing outbreaks in healthcare facilities.

Battling a drug-resistant fungus

The first strain of C. auris was identified in 2009 in Japan. The fungus is known to date from 1996, first found in South Korea, and it is know considered as an emerging world-class pathogen due to the steady increase of reported infections in different countries. So far, the fungus has been identified in India, Israel, Pakistan, Colombia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Kenya, Kuwait, South Africa, and Venezuela.

The CDC issued a report on the first cases of C. auris from 2013 up to 2016. Most of the cases appear to be related to cases occurring in South America and South Asia, where the most likely method of transmission occurred while the patients were in health care settings.

The main issue is that C. auris differs from other candida species because it resists the vast majority of antifungal medications. C. auris is also hardly identifiable by conventional methods, where health specialists should be aware that only through “matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight or molecular identification based on sequencing the D1-D2 region of the 28s ribosomal DNA” they may identify the fungus. Because of this, C. auris is often misidentified, leading to widespread unwary infection.

A clinical alert was issued by the CDC on June 2016. Cases were reported in Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey, whereas only one of them had traveled abroad before being diagnosed. The patients suffered from a variety of medical conditions while or before the diagnosis, ranging from bone marrow transplant up to brain tumor and recent villous adenoma resection.

The CDC states that risk factors for C. auris comprehend recent surgery, diabetes, catheter use, and antibiotic and antifungal use. Infection can occur in patients of any age, but CDC physicians are not sure about any other risk factor worth mentioning.

Currently, C. auris infections are considered to be treatable with echinocandins, a specific class of antifungal drugs. The CDC suggests that high doses of antifungal medication can treat C. auris, although patients are always advised to seek guidance from a health care provider who has had experience treating fungal infections and is aware of C. auris.

Source: CDC