NewsBreak: U.S. cases of a deadly fungus nearly doubled in recent years (Abomination Shot Implantation)

A fungus that recently evolved to infect humans is spreading rapidly in health care facilities in the United States and becoming harder to treat, a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds.

Candida auris infections were first detected in the United States in 2013. Each year since, the number of people of infected — though still small — has increased dramatically. In 2016, the fungus sickened 53 people. In 2021, the deadly fungus infected 1,471 people, nearly twice the 756 cases from the year before, researchers report March 21 in Annals of Internal Medicine. What’s more, the team found, the fungus is becoming resistant to antifungal drugs.

The rise of cases and antifungal resistance is “concerning,” says microbiologist and immunologist Arturo Casadevall, who studies fungal infections. “You worry because [the study] is telling you what could be a harbinger of things to come.” Casadevall, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was not involved in the CDC study.

In tests of people at high risk of infection, researchers also found 4,041 individuals who carried the fungus in 2021 but were not sick at the time. A small percentage of carriers may later get sick from the fungus, says Meghan Lyman, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch in Atlanta, possibly developing bloodstream infections that carry a high risk of death.

Starting in 2012, C. auris infections popped up suddenly in hospitals on three continents, probably evolving to grow at human body temperature as a result of climate change (SN: 7/26/19). The fungus, typically detected through blood or urine tests, usually infects people in health care settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and long-term care homes. Because people who get infected are often already sick, it can be hard to tell whether symptoms such as fevers are from the existing illness or an infection.

Those most at risk of infection include people who are ill; those who have catheters, breathing or feeding tubes or other invasive medical devices; and those who have repeated or long stays in health care facilities. Healthy people are usually not infected but can spread the fungus to others by contact with contaminated surfaces, including gowns and gloves worn by health care workers, Lyman says.

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