Understanding a New Deadly Superbug Infecting Americans: Candida Auris Fungus can Cause Serious and Even Fatal Illness

Headlines around the world are sounding alarm:

Candida Auris: Deadly Superbug Fungus Posing a Serious Global Health Threat

The important thing about these headlines is that they echo what is being announced by the world’s major health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

Because of the very real danger caused by Candida Auris, it is vital that you educate yourself on what fairly is being called a superbug fungus. Through this article, you are presented with the basic information you need to have a clear understanding of Candida Auris, which is also known as C. Auris.

This is the first of a two-part presentation on Candida Auris. The second article in this series addresses how to prevent and combat Candida Auris contamination.

What is Candida Auris?

Candida Auris is a type of fungus that was initially identified 10 years ago, in 2009. This is one of only a few species in the Candida genus that causes what is known as candidiasis in human beings. Candida Auris was first diagnosed in the United States in 2013, having first been identified in Japan in 2009.

Candidiasis is a fungal infection. In the case of Candida Auris, a fungal infection can dangerously occur in the bloodstream, the central nervous system, and in the body’s internal organs.

What are Symptoms of Candida Auris?

As will be discussed a bit more in a moment, Candida Auris is difficult to diagnose. The reality is that it commonly is misidentified, including with other less dangerous fungal infections. Symptoms of Candida Auris oftentimes are associated with the part of the body specifically impacted by the fungus. With that said, there are some common symptoms that manifest oftentimes when an infection exists. These are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Other flu-like symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation

How is Candida Auris Transmitted?

Candida Auris is most often transmitted in a hospital or nursing home setting. People who have other health conditions, including immune system issues, are most likely to become infected with Candida Auris.

Because Candida Auris is a type of fungus, transmission can come in a number of different ways. A person can become infected with Candida Auris by coming into contact with a person infected with this fungus. In addition, because it is a type of fungus, it can be airborne and can be contracted through inhalation.

A generally healthy person is likely to have no ill-effects if exposed to Candida Auris. As mentioned a moment ago, in nearly all cases a person will suffer health consequences associated with Candida Auris only if that individual already has some other type of significant illness or medical condition.

The more common types of medical situations that make a person susceptible to a Candida Auris infection are:

  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Recent organ transplant
  • Chemotherapy
  • AIDS
  • HIV infection
  • Major surgery
  • Any medical condition that decreases a person’s immunity
  • Long term kidney dialysis
  • Use of urinary catheters
  • Use of intravenous catheters
  • People taking broad spectrum antibiotics
  • People taking broad spectrum antifungal agents
  • Individuals hospitalized for extended periods of time
  • Individuals in nursing care facilities

Why is Candida Auris So Alarming?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced a trio of reasons why C. Auris is so alarming.

  • First, Candida Auris oftentimes is multidrug resistant. C. Auris simply cannot be eradicated using the primary types of antifungal drugs typically utilized to treat Candida infections.
  • Second, Candida Auris oftentimes is misidentified and not appropriately diagnosed. This relatively common misidentification leads to improper management of the condition.
  • Third, there have been a growing number of Candida Auris outbreaks in hospitals and other healthcare settings. This necessitates the need for healthcare facilities to be highly proactive in taking precautions to prevent C. Auris infections.

The combination of these three factors renders a Candida Auris truly dangerous. In many ways the combination of a potential deadly fungus that cannot be readily identified, that cannot be readily treated, and that spreads in hospital settings literally is a perfect deadly storm.

Diagnosing Candida Auris is Highly Challenging

Diagnosing Candida Auris can prove to be extremely challenging. As has been noted, symptoms associated with Candida Auris can be mistaken for other conditions, diseases, and illnesses. In addition, even if a determination is made that a fungal infection is the underlying problem, identifying the fungus as being Candida Auris is not going to be the first conclusion. An assumption will be made that it is some other type of fungus.

The reality is that most hospitals and medical centers do not have the ability to specifically identify Candida Auris at the time. These medical facilities can identify fungus generally but cannot specifically identify Candida Auris. Specifically identifying Candida Auris requires testing of DNA sequences that can only be undertaken at this juncture in time at certain laboratories.

In many ways a crucial step in combating and treating Candida Auris is education. Through presentations like this the hope is more and more individuals will become better educated  about Candida Auris, its causes, its treatment, and how to combat and prevent infection by this dangerous fungus.