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What You Need to Know About C. Auris

June 13, 2023by Global Ozone

Candida auris: you’ve probably heard about it in the news by now. 

This emerging fungus is making waves because of its multi-drug resistance and its rapid spread. According to the CDC, C. Auris represents a global health threat — so what can we do to prevent it?

Candida Fungi

C. auris is just a new member of the Candida family, a genus of fungi that we know to most commonly cause fungal infections in humans.

Candida fungi are yeast that naturally live in your body and on your skin without any issues, but when the yeast grows out of control or invades the bloodstream, brain, or kidneys, you can develop an infection called Candidiasis. Most cases are treatable — you’ve probably heard of (or even had) a simple yeast infection or thrush. However, invasive cases of Candidiasis can result in more serious symptoms, especially for immunocompromised people.  

There are five main species of Candida that cause about 90% of Candidiasis infections:

  • Candida albicans
  • Candida glabrata
  • Candida tropicalis
  • Candida parapsilosis
  • Candida krusei

That is, until now. 

New and Noteworthy: C. Auris

While the fungus was first identified in 2009, this species, known as Candida auris, can be dated back to as early as 1996 — so why are we calling it emerging now? 

Rapid Increases 

Due to exponential increases in cases and concerns about resistance, all eyes are on C. auris in the infection prevention world. Since its discovery, infections have occurred in over 30 countries and are increasing at an alarming rate. In 2021 alone, C. auris cases nearly doubled. Thanks to its ability to shed from skin and live on environmental surfaces, this species spreads much faster, especially in places with shared equipment and limited disinfection capabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic also likely increased the spread of C. auris, as resources in medical facilities wore thin and infection prevention strategies for other diseases fell to the wayside. 

Antifungal Drug Resistance

While the rapid increase in C. auris cases is concerning, public health experts also warn about its resistance to multiple antifungal drugs that are typically used to treat Candidiasis cases. 

Much like antibiotics, our overuse of antifungal drugs combined with limited research into new treatments has led to a rise in drug resistance. As we continue to rely on our go-to antifungal drugs, the fungi that survive pass on their resistance to the next generation — leaving us with only three drugs to treat serious C. auris infections

Now, the CDC warns that the emerging pathogenic fungus could cause issues in hospitals globally.

Should you be worried about C. auris? 

After binge-watching The Last of Us, you might hear about a rapidly-spreading, drug-resistant fungus and start to panic. But don’t worry — you don’t need to start doomsday prepping for C. auris. 

While the emergence of any multi-drug resistant pathogen is always worrying, the current concerns still center on hospital-acquired cases of C. auris. Carriers of C. auris can unknowingly shed the fungus onto medical equipment or surfaces in hospitals, which could result in an already-sick patient contracting the infection. Hospitals and nursing homes will need to take further precautions to prevent these kinds of infections. 

But there’s a glaring problem with C. auris infection prevention strategy. Once a patient develops a C. auris infection, it can be especially difficult to diagnose in the lab, which means healthcare workers may not take the correct precautions to prevent further spread within the hospital.

So, if you’re heading in for a surgery or an extended stay, there is some cause for concern — especially if you have any risk factors for developing C. auris. People who are immunocompromised, for example, are more likely to contract an infection. If you have any lines or tubes that go into your body, such as feeding tubes and catheters, that also presents a significant risk for C. auris. If you’re a high-risk patient, speak up! Let your doctors, nurses, and other caregivers know your concerns and work together to mitigate your risk. 

However, you probably don’t need to worry about catching C. auris while going about your daily routine — for now. As C. auris cases continue to crop up, researchers still have a lot to learn about transmission, prevention, and treatments for this emerging pathogen. 

At Global Ozone, we’re dedicated to keeping people safe from dangerous pathogens spread on surfaces. We’re keeping a close eye on this threat, so you can stay informed and healthy.