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November 8, 2016

CDC: Serious, potentially fatal fungal infection has arrived in US

Daily Briefing

This story has been updated

CDC announced Friday that at least 13 people have contracted the potentially fatal fungal infection Candida auris (C. auris) in the United States since mid-2013.

C. auris causes blood stream infections, middle ear infections, and wound infections, and it is resistant to many types of antifungal treatments. It is especially dangerous for high-risk patients, including those who have diabetes, were recently on antibiotics, or recently had surgery.

C. auris first was reported in Japan in 2009. Since then, various countries have reported the fungus, including a possible U.S. infection in 2013. Countries in Asia and the United Kingdom have reported outbreaks of the fungus.

CDC officials say there likely have been C. auris infections in other countries that lack the specialized methods to correctly identify and report the strain. According to CDC, special laboratory methods are needed to identify C. auris because it is very similar to other Candida strains.

Announcement details

CDC said a total of 13 U.S. patients have contracted C. auris since May 2013. The agency examined seven of those 13 cases in detail. Four of those seven patients died, but CDC said it was unsure if C. auris caused the deaths.

According to CDC, all seven of the patients had serious medical conditions and were hospitalized for an average of 18 days before testing positive for the fungus. While C. auris is resistant to many treatments, all of the U.S. cases CDC analyzed responded to at least one antifungal agent.

CDC researchers said they believe all of the patients were infected locally because none had travelled to South Asia or South America, where the strains of C. auris the patients contracted are most commonly found. Tom Chiller, chief of CDC's Mycotic Diseases Branch, said the local infections suggest C. auris arrived in the United States as recently as a few years ago. He added, "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."

CDC recommended that hospitals ensure rooms in which patients with C. auris have stayed are thoroughly cleaned (Szabo, Kaiser Health News/USA Today, 11/4; Harris, "Shots," NPR, 11/4; Pierson, Reuters, 11/4).

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