‘New’ Candida Auris Fungal Superbug Isn't So New At All

The media is abuzz about Candida auris, a fungal superbug popping up throughout the United States as well as other parts of the world. News headlines like "Candida Auris: The Fungus Nobody Wants to Talk About" and "'Unbeatable' superbug fungus sickens hundreds across the U.S., CDC says' seem to suggest that C. auris is a new challenge for healthcare providers and patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls C. auris "an emerging fungus that presents a serious global health threat" and reports that nearly 600 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the United States, as of Feb. 28, 2019. While C. auris — like all superbugs — is concerning, considering the difficulty in diagnosing and treating the infection, it is important to distinguish truth from falsity or rumor when discussing superbugs and working to educate the public on them.

This is what Jamie Wells, MD, FAAP, director of medicine at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), does in a recent article for ACSH. Some of the key takeaways:

  • C. auris is not new. The earliest known infection occurred in 1996 and it was first described in 2009.

  • There's no need for panic. C. auris is not a significant threat to the general public, particularly otherwise healthy individuals. People should practice proper infection control precautions and perform frequent handwashing if a close individual is colonized or infected with C. auris

  • While contracting C. auris is serious, infection is rare, as indicated by the number of confirmed cases. Consider that another type of infection caused an estimated 959,000 hospitalizations and more than 79,000 deaths in the United States from 2017-2018. That infection? Influenza.

  • People with C. auris can be treated and survive.

  • Individuals with multiple, existing medical conditions who are admitted to hospitals or long-term skilled nursing facilities are at the highest risk.

  • With increased awareness of C. auris and identification of hotspots, more rapid detection or at least consideration of testing should help limit outbreaks.

With all of that said, any health threat should be taken seriously, and healthcare providers must always act responsibly when caring for patients. As Dr. Wells writes, "…  hypervigilance in care of those most susceptible like individuals on chemotherapy or alternative immunosuppressed condition is of critical import. Following contact and necessary precautions can be lifesaving."