Mysterious Fungal Infection Spreading Across U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning Americans about an emerging drug-resistant fungus that presents a serious global threat. As of March 29, 2019, the fungal infection, Candida auris, has been clinically confirmed in 617 patients. Most of the reported cases have been in New York, New Jersey and Illinois. As many as 1,050 other patients may be carriers of C. auris.

Quick Read:
A drug-resistant fungal infection is spreading across the country and worrying the CDC. The fungus, C. auris, can cause multiple, invasive infections once it enters the bloodstream. Drug resistance has long been a concern and is often linked to improper or overuse of antifungal medications and antibiotics.

What Can You Do to Protect Your Family?

The Deadly Candida Auris Fungus

C. auris is a fungal yeast infection that, upon entering the bloodstream, can cause multiple invasive infections. Just one of over 20 species of Candida yeasts that cause infections in humans, C. auris poses a unique challenge because it has been found to be resistant to several antifungal drugs. Of those hospitalized because of the infection, about 40 percent have thus far passed away.

What we’re hearing so far is that the level of drug resistance varies, depending on the strain in question. Most strains of the infection are resistant to at least one class of drugs; whereas one-third are resistant to two classes of antifungal drugs. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists reports that some strains have been found to be resistant to all three existing classes of antifungal drugs.

Are Over-Prescribed Drugs to Blame for Outbreak?

A recent study found that common fungi undergo as many as 240 genetic changes as they adapt and become resistant to drug therapy. What’s more, pathogenic fungi are mutating at an unprecedented rate.

So what’s to blame? While some strains are naturally resistant to treatment, others develop immunity over time after being exposed to the drugs used to fight them. According to the CDC, resistance can occur if an antifungal medication is not strong enough or given over an adequate period of time. Antibiotics may also play a role because they can reduce good bacteria that keep fungi in check. The CDC argues that appropriate use of antibiotics and antifungal medications is paramount to fighting drug resistance.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Family

The CDC says that people who are at most risk for contracting C. auris are those who are hospitalized and have a central venous catheter or another type of external to internal tube. People who have previously received antibiotics and antifungal medications are also at a higher risk. If you or a family member meet these criteria, you should be extra cautious and talk to a physician about prevention.

The best thing you can do to protect your family is to keep your immune system strong with a good diet and sleep habits and to encourage good hand hygiene when visiting friends or family members in the hospital or other healthcare settings. By taking some precautions to prevent spread if you visit hospitals, and perhaps using a hospital-grade disinfectant at home if you’re at risk, you can lessen your chances of contracting C. auris, and help protect those around you.

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