Although you may have heard about Candida auris and similar fungi from a popular TV show, there’s no reason to panic about this emerging fungus.
Katie Taylor, MD, medical director of infection prevention at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and assistant professor of clinical medicine at LSU, shares what you should know about Candida auris and steps you can take to prevent its spread.
What is Candida auris?
An emerging multidrug-resistant yeast, Candida auris can cause severe infections and spreads easily between hospitalized patients and nursing home residents. Across our health system we are adhering to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s recommendations for infection prevention and control of Candida auris.
Although it’s not more invasive than other Candida species, it is different in that it’s highly resistant to antifungal drugs, which makes infections difficult to treat.
How Does it Spread?
Candida species live on and in people’s bodies even if it’s not making them sick. This is called colonization. Candida colonizes all human mouths, throats, guts and vaginas. If a patient comes in contact with Candida auris, usually while that person is in a nursing home or hospital, he or she may become colonized with the resistant organism.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Candida infections are usually mild in healthy people, with the most common being vaginal yeast infections or rash (candida dermatitis).However, people with weakened immune systems, those with prolonged hospitalizations or those who have previously received multiple rounds of antibiotics or antifungal medications are at risk for invasive forms of Candida. In these patients,, Candida can enter the blood stream and go on to infect other parts of the body such as heart, brain, eyes or bones Invasive candida infections can be life-threatening.
When patients at risk for invasive forms of Candida become colonized with Candida auris, they may go on to develop invasive Candida auris infection. These infections can be extremely difficult to treat because C. auris is resistant to many antibiotics.
How Do I Know If I Am Infected?
The most common symptoms of invasive Candida infections are fever and chills that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection. But only a lab test can diagnose a C. auris infection.
How Can We Keep Candida auris from Spreading?
- Avoid unnecessary overuse of antibiotics, which kill off good bacteria and allow yeast to grow unchecked
- Avoid unnecessary use of antifungal medications
- Hospital staff, patients and their family members should clean hands thoroughly and often, particularly when leaving a patient’s room
- Continue practicing good hand hygiene when returning home after hospitalization
- Caregivers for hospitalized patients should consider wearing gloves for certain types of care including wound dressing and bathing assistance
- If you believe you might have a fungal infection or healthcare-associated infection, see a healthcare provider to get tested
Should I Worry About Candida auris?
Because C. auris is not known to cause infections in otherwise healthy people, they should not worry. The ways of preventing spread of any other infection are also true for C. auris. Keep washing your hands and sanitize surfaces as recommended to avoid any infection.