One of the biggest public health threats in the United States right now is the fungus Candida auris (C. auris)—a so-called "superbug" that has been identified in more than 60 U.S. residents in recent years, according to acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat, Max Blau reports for STAT News.
Schuchat said C. auris should serve as "a wake-up call" about superbug infections, adding that health officials must "do better with infection control."
C. auris causes blood stream infections, middle ear infections, and wound infections, and it is resistant to many types of antifungal treatments.
C. auris first was reported in Japan in 2009. Since then, at least 61 U.S. residents have been diagnosed with the infection, with most cases occurring in Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. CDC officials in November 2016 confirmed that C. auris infections occurred in the United States, and that individuals had died from the infections.
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.
A 'catastrophic threat,' Schuchat says
Schuchat said the fungus, which she fears could spread throughout the country, poses a "catastrophic threat" to the public. According to STAT News, CDC has said that about 60 percent of individuals who became infected with C. auris died from the infection.
CDC officials have warned clinicians in the United States to be aware of the fungus and look to identify if it emerges in hospitals. According to STAT News, individuals particularly at risk for C. auris infection include:
- Diabetic patients;
- Patients who have been hospitalized for long periods of time;
- Patients with central venous catheters; and
- Recent surgical patients.
Mahmoud Ghannoum, director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine who conducted research on C. auris, said eradicating the fungus "from hospitals is very difficult and in some cases has led to closing hospital wards" (Blau, STAT News, 4/21).
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The continued growth of the consumer-driven health care market threatens the durability of patient-provider relationships—and, at the same time, the push toward population health management and risk-based payment is greater than ever.
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