Cases of illness caused by a drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus, Candida auris, are rising at an “alarming” rate in U.S. healthcare establishments and nearly doubled in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of patients who are infected with Candida auris, also known as C. auris, which can cause severe illnesses in people who have weakened immune systems, rose by 59% to 756 from 2019 to 2020 and then increased by 95%, to 1,471, in 2021. Cases of the fungal infections have now been identified in 30 states and Washington, D.C.
CDC epidemiologist Dr. Meghan Lyman said: “The rapid rise and geographic spread of cases is concerning and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance, expanded lab capacity, quicker diagnostic tests, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control.”
C. auris is a form of yeast that generally does not pose a threat to healthy people, though patients who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have “long or frequent stays in healthcare facilities” face a higher risk. The fungal infection is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, can spread rapidly in healthcare settings, and can cause severe infections, according to the CDC.
The CDC said that the alarming rise in cases presents an “urgent antimicrobial resistance threat,” which refers to when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs that are meant to kill them. There are roughly 3 million antimicrobial-resistant infections in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result.
The rise of drug-resistant bacteria and fungi has been seen globally as well. The United Nations estimated in a recent report that up to 10 million people annually could die by 2050 from an antimicrobial-resistant infection, saying that climate change and pollution may have contributed to a rise in drug-resistant infections.