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NCEZID Innovations: Fungal Infections

A Dangerous Fungus Among Us


In June 2016, CDC alerted US healthcare providers and laboratories to be aware of a new, drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris that posed a serious threat. C. auris, as it’s known, is a yeast that causes serious and often fatal infections and can strike people in the very places they seek care—hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. It’s especially concerning because the fungus can last on skin and healthcare surfaces, like bedrails and chairs, for a long time.

Containing C. auris is complicated because it can be spread from person to person and can be difficult to identify. Standard laboratory tests in healthcare facilities can lead to misidentification, delaying infection control and treatment. Specialized laboratory methods are needed to accurately diagnose C. auris infection. This makes it difficult to control its spread in healthcare settings, where C. auris has caused outbreaks.


Isolating C. auris

Less than 3 weeks after CDC alerted healthcare providers about C. auris, CDC took an important step toward helping public health workers accurately identify the threat. CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Isolate Bank collects samples (called isolates) of C. auris and C. auris “imposters”—look-alike yeasts commonly misidentified as C. auris. CDC makes these unique samples available at no costs to encourage research and development. This will help diagnostic companies to develop tests that could quickly differentiate C. auris from other yeasts.

Devising a new test

Patients who are colonized with C. auris may not show symptoms but still spread it across healthcare facilities. NCEZID’s mycotic diseases lab developed a very sensitive and accurate test to detect C. auris, allowing facilities and health departments to identify hidden pockets of disease and take steps to prevent its spread and stop transmission. The result? Diagnosis and detection of C. auris can be faster and more accurate, preventing more illnesses and deaths

Bottom Line Up Front:

A fungust called C. Auris can be spread in healthcare facilities. NCEZID is helping develop new tests to better detect C. Auris.