The New Superbug in the United States

  1. November 18, 2016
  2. by Jamie Lang
  3. 131 views
The New Superbug in the United States

In the past, medical experts have used the term "superbug" to refer to bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. In November 2016, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a release about Candida auris, a fungus that is multidrug resistant. Because of its resistance to treatment and its potential severity, Candida auris may be considered a new superbug.

What is Candida auris?

Candida auris is a kind of yeast which can enter the bloodstream and cause serious infections. According to the CDC, those at greatest risk for Candida auris are those who've had lengthy stays in intensive care, those with a catheter in a large vein, or people who have previously used antifungal medications or antibiotics. Candida auris is known to cause infections of the ear, bloodstream, and wounds. If you are a relatively healthy individual, you are at no significant risk of contracting this condition. Still, it's important to educate yourself so you can stay informed and proactive regarding any healthcare concerns.

Where did it originate?

Candida auris was first isolated in Japan in 2009. Since that time, Candida auris infections have been reported in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. A retrospective review has revealed that the first known instance of Candida auris appeared in 1996 in South Korea.

In June 2016, the CDC issued an alert for health care institutions in the United States to report the fungus. The CDC, through retrospective review, identified the first case of Candida auris in the U.S. as having occurred in 2013 and determined there were seven cases between May 2013 and August 2016.

Is it deadly?

Yes, but so is any invasive infection with Candida, not just Candida auris. According to the CDC, there is no evidence yet that Candida auris poses a higher risk of death than other kinds of Candida. However, since there is often a delay in diagnosis and because of its multidrug resistance, health authorities are cautioned to be vigilant to prevent possible transmission.

There have been 13 documented cases of Candida auris so far in the United States, and four of the first seven patients died. Globally, about 60% of those with Candida auris have died. However, many of those who passed away were already quite ill with other serious diseases.

How is it spread?

The Candida auris fungus has only been in the U.S. for a few years, and the CDC is still trying to understand exactly how it is spread and how easily. Right now, it is believed to be spread predominantly in healthcare facilities. According to Public Health England, it is unlike other yeast pathogens because of its ability to spread between hospital patients.

How do you prevent it?

Because researchers do not know very much about how Candida auris spreads, there are no known rules to prevent an infection at this time. Candida auris is often mistaken for other Candida infections, which can make it difficult to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. The CDC has interim recommendations on preventing a Candida auris outbreak for healthcare facilities and laboratories.

Is it curable?

In the United States, most Candida auris infections are treated with echinocandins, one of the three classes of antifungal drugs. However, in many global outbreaks of the infection, Candida auris strains have been found to be resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs, which makes it very hard to treat.

As with any serious illness, if you think you may have contracted Candida auris or may be at risk for it, don't panic, and talk to your doctor about your concerns. The sooner you can get a diagnosis and start discussing treatment options, the better off you'll be.

Sources
  1. News in Health: Stop the Spread of Superbugs
  2. CDC: Investigation of the First Seven Reported Cases of Candida auris, a Globally Emerging Invasive, Multidrug-Resistant Fungus — United States, May 2013–August 2016
  3. CDC: Candida auris Questions and Answers
  4. Public Health England: Guidance for the laboratory investigation, management and infection prevention and control for cases of Candida auris