Candida auris is a type of fungus. It is one of the few Candida strains that can affect humans, and infections can be severe or fatal.
Some strains of Candida auris (C. auris) have developed resistance to multiple treatments, making them a significant health threat. Outbreaks of resistant strains tend to occur most often in hospitals and other care facilities.
The symptoms of a C. auris infection are not always easy to identify, and a lab test is the only guaranteed way to diagnose the issue.
C. auris is one of a few types of Candida fungus that transmits to humans.
Researchers discovered C. auris in Japan in 2009 when they isolated it from an infected ear canal. The name auris comes from the Latin word for ear. However, this name is a bit misleading because the infection can occur in many places in the body.
Since then, researchers in many countries, including the United States, have identified the fungi.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that people who already have medical problems or require frequent or prolonged visits to hospitals or other care facilities are most likely to contract C. auris.
Those who have weakened immune systems, either due to an underlying condition or medical treatments, are also more likely to contract C. auris. People undergoing the following procedures or treatments may also be at higher risk. Risks include:
- using a lot of antibiotics
- breathing tubes
- catheters in the bladder or a vein
- feeding tubes
Additionally, the authors of a 2017 review noted that the majority of people who have invasive C. auris received broad-spectrum antimicrobial agents before contracting the infection.
This does not mean that antimicrobial agents cause the infection, but that they may wipe out other competing microbes in the body and allow C. auris to take hold.
Otherwise healthy people do not usually get C. auris infections.
Doctors often find the symptoms of a C. auris infection challenging to identify because they usually occur in people who are already ill.
Symptoms of the infection can vary according to where C. auris is in the body. It can develop in a variety of places, including in an open wound, the bloodstream, or the ear.
The only guaranteed way to diagnose C. auris is through a specific lab test that can identify the fungus.
Early diagnosis is vital. C. auris infections that spread throughout the body or to the bloodstream can cause severe symptoms and can be life threatening.
Typically, C. auris spreads in hospitals and other care facilities through contact with contaminated surfaces or equipment.
However, it can also spread from person to person. People with Candida may shed the fungus through their skin cells. To limit the spread of C. auris, cleaning, hygiene, and sanitation are crucial.
However, ongoing research continues to investigate exactly how and why C. auris spreads.
While C. auris infections are serious, most are treatable. Typically, treatment begins with antifungal drugs called echinocandins.
However, some strains of C. auris have become resistant to one or even all classes of antifungal drugs designed to eliminate them. This makes treatment more difficult.
Strains that become resistant to treatment may lead to more severe infections. In these cases, doctors generally recommend a combination of antifungal drugs at very high doses to eliminate the infection.
Doctors will need to discuss all options and their possible outcomes with the patient beforehand.
C. auris infections have appeared in 30 different countries, including the U.S. The CDC also note that these infections likely occur in many other countries that may not have sufficient tools to identify the infection accurately.
While other infectious germs may cause outbreaks that start in one area of the world and spread from there, C. auris is different.
In 2019, researchers noted that cases of C. auris appeared around the same time on three different continents, and each strain had a different genetic code.
Experts are unsure why the infections seemed to appear at the same time. Some theories indicate that environmental factors such as climate change may have played a role. They also think that the fungi, in general, may have developed an immunity to the drugs designed to treat them.
It is important to note that C. auris does not usually impact people who do not have any health problems. Traveling to other countries or being in contact with a loved one who has C. auris should not increase the risk for an otherwise healthy person.
However, it is still essential to practice good hygiene to prevent spreading the infection to other vulnerable people.
Diagnosing C. auris infections requires specific lab equipment and tests. Many facilities do not have access to these tools, which may make misdiagnosis more likely and increase the risk of the infection spreading.
The CDC recommend practicing safe contact procedures for as long as Candida remains in a person’s body. This is challenging, as some evidence suggests that Candida can colonize a person for many months.
While there are risks of Candida outbreaks in care facilities, there are many ways these care facilities can work to prevent the spread of C. auris.
Safe practices to help prevent spread and outbreak include:
- screening patients to identify risk and colonization
- limiting the number of people who work with patients who have C. auris
- keeping patients in single rooms or apart from other patients who do not have the infections
- practicing regular hand washing
- using hospital-grade disinfectants
- communicating with other care facilities the patient attends to follow up on the person’s status
Candida auris is a type of fungus that can transmit to humans.
The infections typically occur in people who have compromised immune systems, are taking strong antibiotics, or those who go to the hospital or other care facilities regularly or for extended periods. Healthy people are not likely to contract the infection.
C. auris infections can be severe and even life threatening, making treatment and prevention essential.
Care facilities must work quickly to screen and test patients for C. auris to begin treatment. Following CDC guidelines also helps reduce the risk of an outbreak.