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Deadly fungal infection spreading at an alarming rate, CDC says

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A drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus has spread rapidly through US healthcare facilities, according to a new government study.

The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, or C. auris, can cause serious illness in people with weakened immune systems. The number of people diagnosed with infections – as well as the number of those found to have C. auris through screening – has increased at an alarming rate since it was reported for the first time in the United States, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.

The increases, “especially in recent years, are of real concern to us,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Meghan Lyman, chief medical officer of the CDC Mycotic Diseases Branch, said in an interview. “We have seen increases not only in areas of ongoing transmission, but also in new areas.”

Petri dish of candida auris in a laboratory in Wuerzburg, Germany
Petri dish of candida auris in a laboratory in Würzburg, Germany, January 23, 2018. Nicolas Armer/photo alliance via Getty Images file

The new CDC warning, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, comes as Mississippi battles a growing epidemic of the fungus. Since November, at least 12 people have been infected with C. auris with four “potentially associated deaths,” according to the state health department, said state health department spokeswoman Tammy Yates. of Mississippi in an email.

There has been continued transmission at two long-term care facilities, although cases have been identified at several other facilities across the state.

“Unfortunately, multidrug-resistant organisms such as C. auris have become more prevalent among our most at-risk individuals, such as residents of long-term care facilities,” Yates said.

The fungus can be found on the skin and throughout the body, according to the CDC. It is not a threat to healthy people, but about one-third of people who get sick with C. auris die.

In the CDC report, researchers analyzed data from state and local health departments on people who were sick with the fungus from 2016 through December 31, 2021, as well as those who were “colonized,” meaning they weren’t weren’t sick but carried it on their bodies. with the potential to pass it on to others who may be more vulnerable to it.

The number of infections increased by 59%, to 756, from 2019 to 2020, then by another 95%, to 1,471, in 2021.

The researchers also found that the incidence of people not infected with the fungus but colonized by it increased by 21% in 2020, compared to 2019, and by 209% in 2021, with an increase to 4,041 in 2021. compared to 1,310 in 2020.

C. auris has now been detected in more than half of US states, according to the new study.


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