The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a stark warning this week that Candida auris, a rare and potentially deadly fungal disease, is spreading across the United States.
Health officials have noted a “dramatic” increase in cases of the fungal infection, which primarily affects older people and those with weakened immune systems. The fungus, which is resistant to traditional antifungal medications, can cause severe illness in hospitalized patients and has a mortality rate of up to 60%.
According to CDC statistics, there were at least 2,377 confirmed cases of Candida auris in the U.S. in 2022, marking a sharp increase from the 1,474 cases in 2021 and the 757 confirmed cases in 2020. Health officials have expressed deep concern over the fungus’s resistance to antifungal medication, which is often the first option for treatment. They have called for further research into better protection and prevention measures against the fungus.
“The rise in echinocandin-resistant cases and evidence of transmission is particularly concerning because echinocandins are first-line therapy for invasive Candida infections, including C auris,” a research paper in the Annals of Internal Medicine stated. “These findings highlight the need for improved detection and infection control practices to prevent the spread of C auris.”
CDC officials revealed that Candida auris has now been tracked in half of the states in the U.S. and said that the coronavirus pandemic likely worsened its spread. As the focus on the COVID-19 virus increased, less emphasis was placed on screening for C. auris. Health officials in Mississippi reported last month that the fungal infection may have caused four recent deaths in the state, with at least 12 people infected since November. In November, Nevada health officials linked 63 deaths in the state to Candida auris.
Although the virus was first reported in Japan in 2009, researchers have traced the earliest strain to South Korea in 1996. Candida auris typically does not present a risk to young people. Health officials have called for better detection and infection control practices to prevent further spread of the fungus.