Just five months after federal health officials asked hospitals and physicians to be on the lookout for an often-fatal, antibiotic-resistant fungus called Candida auris, 13 cases have been reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. It is the first time that the fungus, which is easily misidentified in lab tests as a more common candida yeast infection, has been found in the US, and four of the first seven patients with it have died.
“We need to act now to better understand, contain and stop the spread of this drug-resistant fungus,” the CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said in a statement. “This is an emerging threat, and we need to protect vulnerable patients and others.”
C. auris’s emergence and apparent global spread — it was first identified in Japan in 2009 and since then has been found in a dozen countries on four continents — put the pathogen on the ever-growing list of superbugs, disease-causing microbes that are resistant to many and, in some cases, all antibiotics.
The first seven cases, which are described in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, occurred in New York, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey in 2013 (one case), 2015 (one case), and this year (five cases). The older cases were identified through a review of patients’ lab records conducted after the CDC sent its clinical alert in June. All seven of the patients had been hospitalized for cancer, respiratory failure, or other serious condition, so it is not clear if C. auris contributed to the deaths of four of them, the CDC said.