Candida auris, a multidrug-resistant fungus, causes chronic, difficult-to-treat illnesses in hospitalized patients. From the first infection reported in 2016 to April 2023, the total clinical case count is 1,488—that’s in the state of New York alone.
In 2022, there were 379 confirmed cases, and as of April 21, 2023, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH) has already reported around 105 clinical and 177 surveillance cases. The surge in C. auris infections is attributed to the fungus's ability to linger on surfaces, adding to the multidrug resistance: The fungus secretes a sticky “biofilm” that helps it adhere to surfaces and also prevents antifungal drugs from entering its cells.
C. auris spreads in patients—especially those who have a long stay in an intensive care unit—who come in contact with a person, or surfaces, or equipment, which are infected or colonized. People who are immunocompromised and/or people who have previously received antibiotics or antifungal medications may be at highest risk of infection.
In a recent article in the New York Post, Rodney Rohde, PhD, SV, SM, MB (ASCP), FACSc, microbiologist and chair and professor of clinical laboratory science at Texas State University, said symptoms of C. auris infection could include fever or severe urinary tract infection, which can then spread through the bloodstream and cause sepsis and organ failure. “It can be delivered to really critical organs, including your kidney and your heart,” said Rohde. “It can even get into your brain and cause encephalitis.”
C. auris infections are known to be difficult to treat and can be fatal when untreated. Per the CDC, around 30–60 percent of people with C. auris infections have died. However, many of these people had other serious illnesses that exacerbated the risk of death. “I do not think it’s going to peter out,” said Rohde. “It’s a global problem.”