The fungus Candida auris can pose a lethal risk to vulnerable hospital and nursing home patients.
Cases of a dangerous mold have tripled in the United States in just three years, and more than half of the states have now reported it, according to a new study.
The COVID-19 pandemic likely drove some of the increase, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote in the paper published Monday by Annals of Internal Medicine. Hospital workers became tense with coronavirus patients, and that likely shifted their focus from disinfecting other types of germs, they said.
The fungus, Candida auris, is a form of yeast that is not usually harmful to healthy people, but can pose a lethal risk to vulnerable hospital and nursing home patients. It spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears and the bloodstream. Some strains are so-called superbugs that are resistant to all three classes of antibiotics used to treat yeast infections.
It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been observed in more and more countries. The first case in the US occurred in 2013, but was not reported until 2016. That year, U.S. health officials reported 53 cases.
The new study found that the number of cases continued to rise, rising to 476 in 2019, to 756 in 2020 and then to 1,471 in 2021. Doctors have also discovered the fungus on the skin of thousands of other patients, putting them at risk for transmission to others.
Also of concern was the tripling by 2021 in the number of cases resistant to echinocandins, the class of drugs most commonly recommended for treating the disease.
Many of the first US cases were infections imported from abroad, but now most infections are spread within the US, the authors noted.