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CDC warns US hospitals of emerging, deadly yeast infection: 7 things to know

Written by Heather Punke (Twitter | Google+)  | June 29, 2016

The CDC has issued a clinical alert to healthcare facilities in the U.S. about an emerging, multidrug-resistant yeast called Candida auris that is causing invasive, highly deadly infections across the world.

The following are seven things to know about C. auris and the CDC's response.

1. The multidrug-resistant yeast causes bloodstream infections, wound infections and middle ear infections. Most of the documented C. auris yeast infections have been hospital-acquired, with patients contracting the fungus weeks into their hospital stay.

2. Diabetes, recent surgery, recent antibiotics and the presence of central venous catheters all are risk factors for a C. auris infection.

3. Most C. auris isolates have shown resistance to common antifungal drugs, which means treatment options would be limited.

4. Only one isolate of C. auris was located in the U.S. in 2013, but has been found in nine countries on four continents since 2009. The earliest known infection caused by the fungus happened in South Korea in 1996. "CDC is concerned that C. auris will emerge in new locations, including the United States," the health alert reads.

5. At least two countries have described healthcare outbreaks of C. auris infections involving more than 30 patients each. While the yeast's mode of transmission is not yet known, evidence suggests C. auris could contaminate the rooms where infected patients stayed. "Good infection control practices and environmental cleaning may help prevent transmission," according to the CDC health alert.

6. The CDC issued the following interim recommendations for hospitals to prevent C. auris transmission:

  • If a healthcare facility suspects a patient has C. auris, it should contact state and local public health authorities as well as the CDC.

  • Patients colonized or infected with C. auris should be placed in a single room and healthcare personnel should use Standard and Contact Precautions, as the agency is still working to develop definitive infection control guidance for the yeast.

  • Healthcare facilities with colonized or infected patients should make sure to perform thorough daily and terminal cleaning and disinfection of the patients' rooms with an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant with a fungal claim.

7. C. auris closely resembles other fungi, and commercially available tests used in many U.S. labs cannot differentiate this strain from other related species. "Clinical, state and public health laboratories should be aware of this organism and of the limitations in its identification," the health alert reads.

Zach Prideaux