Drug Resistant Fungal Pathogen Linked to High Hospital Death Rates: CDC Report

C. auris infections, which are often antibiotic-resistant, result in death for about one-third of patients who contract the fungal pathogen.

U.S. hospitals nationwide face a growing risk from rapidly spreading fungal infections, which are resistant to available drugs and potentially lethal for many patients, causing the deaths of numerous patients.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that cases of Candida auris fungal infections are being reported in a number of hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice care facilities, according to a new study published this month in the medical journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Candida auris is a type of yeast that can colonize the skin throughout the body. It can lead to infection and is highly transmissible in healthcare settings like hospitals and nursing homes. While other factors can lead to infections in nursing homes, such as low staffing and neglect, these types of pathogens spread easily in those settings.

More than one-third of patients who contract the infection die, according to the findings of CDC researchers.

C. Auris Infection Cases Spreading

In this new study, researchers used data from a large hospital database in the U.S. and analyzed 192 C. auris hospitalizations from 2017 to 2022 in 42 hospitals.

The data indicates that from 2020 to 2021 cases of C. auris increased by 95%. The estimated death rate for patients was 34%. About 20% of C. auris cases were from C. auris bloodstream infections. Patients with the bloodstream infection type of C. auris had a death rate of nearly 50%.

Most patients who contracted C. auris had underlying conditions which may have complicated the infection, according to the findings. Roughly two-thirds of patients also had sepsis, a serious bloodstream infection that can infect other parts of the body and lead to organ failure. Another 50% suffered from diabetes, 44% from kidney disease, and 43% also had pneumonia.

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More than 75% of patients with the fungal infection needed to be treated in the intensive care unit, and most had hospital stays averaging 13 days or more.

The number of patients who were colonized by the fungal organism but were not suffering from infections, increased by 21% in 2020 and by 209% in 2021. The fungal infection has been detected in more than half of the states in the United States and is on the rise.

Drug-Resistant Fungal Infections Increasing

The researchers warn that many of those cases are not treatable with the currently available antibiotics. Many samples of C. auris are resistant to drug treatment, which is a consequence of the widespread overprescribing of antibiotics throughout the U.S. healthcare system.

Despite the worsening problem, most people do not have to worry about a C. auris infection, CDC researchers noted. The infection primarily affects older people and people who are already ill with other conditions. It spreads rapidly in healthcare settings, like hospital wards and nursing homes, but is not common in community settings.

C. Auris isn’t the only drug-resistant infection that is plaguing communities. Earlier this year, health officials issued a warning about the increasing number of cases of human metapneumovirus (HMPV), an obscure but highly contagious virus that can also lead to serious illness and hospitalization.

Similarly, drug-resistant mold infections spread across the U.S. in 2022. Researchers concluded many of those infections were a by-product of exposure to certain natural elements in the environment.

However, antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming more commonplace. As such, the CDC awarded $22 million to 30 organizations conducting research focusing on antibiotic resistance and other healthcare threats.


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