Candida auris is a drug-resistant yeast first identified in Japan in 2009, and it has been in the United States since 2016. In recent years, there has been a steep increase in cases that concern the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even though C. auris was named after the Latin word “ear” because it was first found in the ear canal of a patient, it affects more than that by entering the body through the bloodstream, or even the lungs, causing serious invasive infections.

Candida auris can be drug-resistant

The yeast is difficult to distinguish from common yeast with normal lab procedures and has a resistance to strong drugs in particular strains, the CDC said.

A new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine by the CDC said, that cases have been increasing since 2019, with a 40% increase in 2019, a 95% increase in 2021, and an 80% increase in 2022.

“The rise in echinocandin-resistant cases and evidence of transmission is particularly concerning because echinocandins are first-line therapy for invasive Candida infections, including C. auris,” said the study.

Both, drug resistance and difficulty to identify the fungus have contributed to outbreaks in healthcare facilities such as hospitals across the states.

From January 2022 to December, the CDC reported 2,377 clinical cases in the United States, a big uptick from the 500 cases in 2019. By the end of 2022, more than half of the United States had anywhere from zero to 100 cases, with the most reported in Nevada, California and Florida.

The increase in cases could be because of the outbreak of the previous COVID-19 pandemic, which likely put the yeast on the back burner as health care personnel responded to the virus, reported The New York Times. Dr. Meghan Lyman of the CDC’s mycotic diseases branch told the Times that the spread was “concerning but not surprising.”

Older patients who live in nursing homes or patients already in the hospital who have ventilators, feeding tubes, or IVs are more at risk than younger patients. About 30 to 60% of patients with a confirmed case have died, but the CDC said it’s still unclear if the yeast killed the patient or simply expedited the process with their “other serious illnesses.”

After some successful containment in Illinois and New York, Lyman told The New York Times that “it’s not a hopeless situation” and is optimistic about future containment.

Although, she said as lead author in the study, “these findings highlight the need for improved detection and infection control practices to prevent spread of C. auris.”

This story has been updated with new information and details since it was originally published.

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