Reports of a drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus have spiked at U.S. healthcare facilities, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
Reports of infections from Candida auris are being seen at rates that are “concerning,” according to the new study’s lead author.
The increases, “especially in the most recent years, are really concerning to us,” Dr. Meghan Lyman, chief medical officer in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, said in an interview. “We’ve seen increases not just in areas of ongoing transmission, but also in new areas.”
The fungus can be especially dangerous in people with weakened immune systems. For those who are generally healthy, the fungus is not a threat.
However, around a third of the people who contract the fungal infection will die.
The increase in the number of cases has been dramatic. The number of reported infections increased to 756 (up by 59%) from 2019 to 2020. In 2021, the number increased by 95%, to 1,471.
According to the study, healthcare facilities, especially long-term facilities such as nursing homes, have seen the most dramatic increase in cases. Mississippi has seen an outbreak of the fungal virus in such facilities, according to state health officials.
“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,” said Tammy Yates, spokesperson for the Mississippi State Department of Health said.
Clearing the infection that was first detected more than a decade ago in India, South Africa and South America can be difficult.
“If [the fungi] get into a hospital, they are very difficult to control and get out,” William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told The Washington Post. “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.”