CDC monitoring rise of deadly fungal infection

The CDC is sounding the alarm on a potentially deadly fungal threat.
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 3:50 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The CDC is sounding the alarm on a potentially deadly fungal threat.

It’s called Candida Auris, and one Lexington doctor says it’s been on his radar for over a year.

Since the first American case of Candida auris was reported in 2016, there have only been a few dozen cases reported annually, according to the CDC. However, by 2021, annual cases jumped 95% from 2020, and preliminary figures show more than 2,000 additional cases for 2022.

The CDC reports that Kentucky saw zero cases in 2020, seven in 2021 and at least 22 in 2022.

“It’s mostly a problem in nursing homes and in patients who have been in the hospital or, say, intensive care units for extensive periods of time or have open wounds or IV catheters in,” said Dr. Mark Dougherty, an infectious disease physician at Baptist Health Lexington.

While Dougherty says the general public doesn’t have to worry about Candida auris per see, it is problematic for a few reasons.

“Some of the systems that we have in labs to identify organisms sometimes miss this germ and misidentify it as another Candida species,” said Dougherty.

This makes testing difficult, but Baptist Health is working on PCR tests similar to those used to test for COVID-19.

“It’s nastier and more aggressive than some of the other yeast organisms, so it can potentially start one place and go other places in the body,” said Dougherty.

Candida auris is also resistant to most antifungal antibiotics, making treating it more challenging.

“So this germ not only has to be identified, and then if it’s causing infection as opposed to just sitting on a surface, we have to use an intravenous antibiotic to take care of it,” said Dougherty.

The CDC says the most common symptoms are fever and chills that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection. They recommend speaking with your healthcare provider if you believe you have any type of fungal or healthcare-associated infection.