A drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus is spreading rapidly in U.S. healthcare settings, a government study shows.
The fungus, a type of yeast called Candida auris, or Candida auris, can cause serious illness in people with weakened immune systems, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report.
Since the fungus was first reported in the United States in 2016, the number of people diagnosed and screened for Candida auris has been rising at an alarming rate.
The fungus was discovered in Asia in 2009, but scientists say C. auris first appeared around the world about a decade ago.
Dr. Megan Lyman, chief medical officer of the CDC’s division of fungal diseases, said the increase “really concerns us, especially in recent years.”
“We’re seeing increases not only in areas where transmission is ongoing, but also in new areas,” she said.
Dr. Lyman also said she was concerned about the growing number of samples of the fungus becoming resistant to common treatments.
Dr. Waleed Javid, an epidemiologist and director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai City Center in New York, said the fungus was “worrisome.”
“But we don’t want people who’ve seen The Last of Us to think we’re all going to die,” Dr. Javid said.
“It’s an infection that occurs in very ill patients who often have many other problems.”
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This fungus is present on the skin and throughout the body and does not pose a threat to healthy people.
But about one-third of people with C. auris die.
The fungus has been detected in more than half of the US states. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of infections in the United States has increased by 95%.
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The new research comes as Mississippi faces a growing fungal outbreak.
Since November, 12 people have been infected in the state, with four “probably related deaths,” according to the state’s health department.