Fungus Candida auris is spreading in the US—here’s what we know so far
Scientists are monitoring a fungus that is currently spreading rapidly in healthcare facilities in the US. Candida auris (C. auris) was first discovered in Japan in 2009, and was reported in the US for the first time in 2016. Recorded cases of the infection have risen 1,200 percent since 2017, according to reports, with New York being a hotspot.
“C. auris is a yeast that can cause severe illness and spreads easily in healthcare settings, sometimes causing outbreaks,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also note that this fungus appears resistant to antifungal treatments.
Those with weakened immune systems and preexisting medical conditions, especially older patients, are more susceptible to infection. If these people get infected, the fungus is likely to cause sepsis, fever, or low blood pressure.
Experts are concerned because of its resistance to drug treatment. CDC also estimates that this disease has a mortality rate of 30 to 60 percent.
The looming threat of Candida auris
The danger of C. auris also lies in how quickly it can colonize an area. Grist, a nonprofit, independent media organization focusing on climate justice stories, reports that the fungus is “incredibly hard to root out of hospital rooms, nursing homes, and patients… [as] the fungus can survive on surfaces for weeks.”
Scientists are also attributing the rapid spread of C. auris to climate change. While the high temperature of the human body has normally been able to keep fungal infections away and in check, rising temperatures outside give the fungus a chance to adapt.
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“We have tremendous protection against environmental fungi because of our temperature. However, if the world is getting warmer and the fungi begin to adapt to higher temperatures as well, some… are going to reach what I call the temperature barrier,” says fungal disease expert Arturo Casadevall.
Another theory is that the widespread use of antifungals have, over time, led to resistance.
While C. auris is difficult to treat, it is also difficult to diagnose.