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Drug-Resistant Fungus Linked to 4 Deaths in U.S. Hospitals

The CDC says Candida auris has been identified in a total of 13 cases here.

Published: November 9, 2016

IN DISGUISE C. auris is often misidentified as another species of Candida.

Candida auris, a multidrug-resistant and often deadly fungus first identified in Japan in 2009, has been identified in 13 cases in the United States, says the Centers for Disease Control, which adds that healthcare settings are likely to be conducive to its spread.

Six cases are still under investigation, but the other 7 are described in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. They occurred between 2013 and 2016 in New York, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey. All of the identified patients had serious underlying medical conditions and had been hospitalized an average of 18 days when the fungus was identified. Four died, but it's not certain whether C. auris or other co-morbidities were to blame.

The strains found in U.S. patients were related to strains from South Asia and South America, but none of the patients had traveled to, or had direct links with, those regions, suggesting that they acquired the infections locally.

While most strains from U.S. patients showed some drug resistance, none were resistant to all 3 antifungal drug classes. Samples of strains from other countries have been found to be resistant to all 3.

In addition to being hard to treat, C. auris can be hard to identify, says the CDC. Most of the patient samples in its report were initially misidentified as another species of Candida.

"We're working hard with partners to better understand this fungus and how it spreads so we can improve infection control recommendations and help protect people," says Tom Chiller, MD, M.P.H., chief of the CDC's Mycotic Diseases Branch.

Facilities who've had C. auris patients should conduct thorough daily and after-discharge cleaning of rooms with an EPA-registered disinfectant active against fungi, says the CDC. And all cases should be reported to CDC and state and local health departments. Those facilities are also urged to implement strict standard and contact precautions.

Jim Burger

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