A new report warns of a potentially deadly fungus — that resists drugs — spreading in hospitals around the country.
Candida auris, or C. auris, can be fatal for people who already have weakened immune systems; roughly one-third of people who contract the fungus die, as the fungus attacks through infections in the bloodstream, brain, and heart. Healthy people are not at risk of dying from the disease.
“Unfortunately, multi-drug resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent among our highest risk individuals, such as residents in long-term care facilities,” Tammy Yates, spokesperson for Mississippi State Department of Health, stated.
Since November, four people have suffered “potentially associated deaths,” due to the fungus in Mississippi, Yates noted.
“If [the fungi] get into a hospital, they are very difficult to control and get out,” William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center said. “They can persist, smoldering, causing infections for a considerable period of time despite the best efforts of the infection control team and everyone else in the hospital.”
The fungus’ existence in the U.S. was first widely reported in 2016; four people reportedly died from the disease.
The report released by the CDC contends that clinical cases in the United States soared from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021.
“We’ve seen increases not just in areas of ongoing transmission, but also in new areas,” Dr. Meghan Lyman, who led the study, asserted,
Acknowledging the findings are “worrisome,” infectious disease expert Dr. Waleed Javaid cautioned, “But we don’t want people who watched ‘The Last of Us’ to think we’re all going to die. This is an infection that occurs in extremely ill individuals who are usually sick with a lot of other issues.”
The fungus can be spread not only through people but also through contact with patient rooms.
“By its nature it has an extreme ability to survive on surfaces,” Javaid explained. “It can colonize walls, cables, bedding, chairs. We clean everything with bleach and UV light.”
Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, warned that stopping the spread of the fungus was imperative, recalling how the bacteria MRSA, also drug-resistant, spread.
“It’s the pattern we’ve observed with these types of pathogens,” he said. “Often they start out extremely rare, then they emerge in more and more places and become widespread. … It’s not unusual to see MRSA in the community now. Will that happen with C. auris? I don’t know. That’s partly why the CDC is raising the alarm.”