Candida auris is a type of fungal infection that most commonly affects people with compromised immune systems as well as people admitted to hospitals for long periods of time. Candida auris is a fungus that is resistant to many typical antifungal medications, which can make it very difficult to treat. This is why it is often referred to as a super-fungus.
Candida auris was identified for the first time in 2009 in the ear discharge of a Japanese patient. In 2016, it was concluded that this fungus should always be reported to public health authorities, as its treatment and control can be very difficult.
The most common symptoms of a Candida auris infection are:
- High-grade fever
- Increased heart rate
A Candida auris infection can be common in people who are admitted to the hospital for long periods of time. People who have a weakened immune system are also at more risk, as their defense mechanisms allow for the spread of this fungus in the bloodstream.
This fungus was first identified in the ear, although it can be associated with UTIs and respiratory infections. It may be confused with other infections at first however, which delays treatment.
It is not well known if the Candida auris initial development starts in the lungs or urinary tract system, or if this fungus emerges as a consequence of infection elsewhere in the body.
Confirming a diagnosis
Reaching a Candida auris diagnosis is difficult, as the tests available are non-specific for identifying this particular species of fungus. A more specific test, like MALDI-TOF testing, can confirm the species, while other differential testing can rule out other types of fungi.
In addition, this fungus can be isolated from biological specimen, like blood, wound discharge, sputum and urine. Therefore, it is important for the lab to test for more specific fungi if the microorganism detected is of the Candida genus.
It is also important to remember that the test that detects the type of fungi present should also look at the antimicrobials the fungus is sensitive or resistant to. This will help to guide the treatment options available.
Who is at most risk for infection?
Risk factors for a Candida auris infection include:
- Being admitted to the hospital for a prolonged period of time
- Previously using antifungals
- Venous catheters or other in-dwelling catheters, as the fungus can adhere to this equipment
- Current or history of prolonged antibiotic use
In addition, people who have recently completed surgical procedures, who have chronic diseases (like diabetes) or have a weakened immune system are also at more risk for this infection.
Another factor that promotes a Candida auris infection is elevated temperatures. This fungus has developed mechanisms to survive high temperatures, meaning it can easily spread within the human body.
Treatment for a Candida auris infection is difficult, as this fungus is resistant to many antifungals that are normally used for Candida infections. For this reason, it is often referred to as a super-fungus. Treatment is based on the severity of infection as well as the patient’s immune system. The doctor may prescribe echinochandin antifungals or a combination of antifungals at high doses.
It is important for Candida auris infections to be promptly identified and treated before it spreads through the blood system and causes a systemic infection, which can be fatal.
Preventing Candida auris infections should first involve protecting other common surfaces from contamination. Hospitals, for example, should regularly have cleaning protocols for commonly used equipment, surfaces or medical devices.
To prevent transmission, be sure to wash your hands before and after contact with infected skin.
People with a confirmed Candida auris infection should remain isolated to prevent infection to other people, particularly those with a weakened immune system.