First cases of Candida auris reported in United States

Thirteen cases of Candida auris (C. auris), a serious and sometimes fatal fungal infection that is emerging globally, have been identified in the United States. Seven of the cases occurred between May 2013 and August 2016 and are described in a report released in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The other six cases were identified after the period covered by the report and are still under investigation.

This MMWR is the first to describe U.S. cases of C. auris infection, which is often resistant to antifungal drugs and tends to occur in hospitalized patients. In June 2016, CDC issued interim recommendations as well as a clinical alert describing the global emergence of C. auris and requesting that laboratories report C. auris cases and send patient samples to state and local health departments and CDC.

Among the seven cases detailed in the report, patients with C. auris were reported in four states: New York, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey. All of the patients had serious underlying medical conditions and had been hospitalized an average of 18 days when C. auris was identified. Four of the patients died; it is unclear whether the deaths were associated with C. auris infection or underlying health conditions. CDC recommends that healthcare professionals implement strict Standard and Contact Precautions to control the spread of C. auris. Facilities should conduct thorough daily and after-discharge cleaning of rooms of C. auris patients with an EPA-registered disinfectant active against fungi.

CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Laboratory Network is providing additional lab support in four regional laboratories to test fungal susceptibility of Candida species and identify emerging resistance. CDC is also expanding tracking of this fungus through the Emerging Infections Program. Information gathered through these networks play a key role in tracking resistance and informing policies and interventions. In 2013, CDC issued a report describing antibiotic resistance threats in the United States that needed prompt action, including Candida infections.

Things to Consider

  • Identifying auris requires specialized laboratory methods because it can easily be misidentified as another type of Candida infection, in which case patients may not receive appropriate treatment. Most of the patient samples in the current report were initially misidentified as another species of Candida.
  • Most of the auris strains from U.S. patients (71%) showed some drug resistance, making treatment more difficult. Samples of C. auris strains from other countries have been found to be resistant to all three major classes of antifungal medications. However, none of the U.S. strains in this report were resistant to all three antifungal drug classes.
  • In two instances, two patients had been treated in the same hospital or long-term-care facility and had nearly identical fungal strains. These findings suggest that auris could be spread in healthcare settings.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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