Candida Auris Superbug: Who’s At Risk, Where It’s Spread, Can It Be Stopped?

Reports have recently emerged regarding the spread of Candida auris, a fungal superbug that has been shown to be resistant to known antibiotics. With the fungal infection now in America and reportedly having sickened almost three dozen individuals, government officials are working overtime to find a way to deal with the bug and prevent further cases from occurring.

The official website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes Candida auris as an “emerging fungus” and a “serious global health threat,” a bug where some of its strains have shown to be resistant to all three major classes of antifungal medication. The fact sheet on the superbug suggests that such multi-drug resistance has not been reported previously in other Candida strains, while another worrisome observation has been C. auris‘ hitherto-unseen ability to spread from patient to patient in hospitals, and the fact that it’s even been found on “surfaces in healthcare environments.”

According to the Washington Post, Candida auris is more than just a superbug, but one that can result in serious bloodstream infections. It is also a highly fatal disease, as it has been known to kill up to 60 percent of sufferers, many of whom had “other serious underlying illnesses” aside from the fungal infection.

The CDC’s fact sheet also includes a map detailing the number of Candida auris cases reported in the U.S. – currently, 28 out of the 35 documented cases have been reported in the state of New York, while other states affected include Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. The Inquisitr noted yesterday that there are 18 more suspected cases, though these have yet to be confirmed as the patients have yet to experience the classical symptoms of the infection.

Another potential risk, the CDC writes, is the difficulty in identifying C. auris, and the risk that it may be mistaken to be another kind of fungus.

“C. auris is difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods and can be misidentified in labs without specific technology.”

Patients or other individuals required to stay in a hospital for a long period of time are considered to be at the highest risk of catching Candida auris. The superbug also poses higher-than-usual risk those who need to use a catheter or ventilator. However, CDC fungal expert Tom Chiller was quoted by the Washington Post as saying the infection remains quite rare, as it only tends to infect the “sickest of the sick.”

On a positive note, there has been some hope in the fight against Candida auris. According to ReliaWire, a team of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine microbiologists discovered in February some exciting new information on C. auris‘ drug resistance and other features. While still not offering any rock-solid proof of a drug that could combat the bug, the study did include some evidence that the investigational drug codenamed SCY-078 could be helpful in squashing it. This drug was previously proven to be effective against other strains of Candida, such as C. albicans and C. tropicalis, that are linked with catheter-related infections.

“This drug is especially promising because of its broad anti-Candida activity, including activity against drug-susceptible and resistant strains,” wrote study author Mahmoud Ghannoum, as quoted by ReliaWire.

So far, it’s been nine months since the CDC issued official literature warning U.S. medical facilities about the threat of Candida auris. In an effort to fight the superbug and make its identification much easier than it currently is, the agency is working closely with regional laboratories and hospitals, offering tools such as additional funds and its own knowledge of the infection in hopes of getting to the bottom of things.

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