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New York Has The Most Cases To Date Of A Deadly Drug-Resistant Fungal Infection

C. auris, a fungus resistant to many medications, cultured in a petri dish at a CDC laboratory.
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C. auris, a fungus resistant to many medications, cultured in a petri dish at a CDC laboratory. Public Domain

During this past glorious spring weekend, The New York Times published some light reading about Candida auris, a drug-resistant fungal infection that's spreading around the world.

Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control has warned that "most C. auris cases in the United States have been detected in the New York City area, New Jersey, and the Chicago area." To date, 309 of C. auris's 587 confirmed cases in the U.S. have happened in New York state, and New Jersey has had 104 confirmed instances of the infection, as well as 22 other probable cases.

The germ, which often targets people with shaky immune systems, is disconcerting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it's one of many infections becoming progressively more resistant to current anti-fungal medications. For one thing, no one knows where it came from, or why it's spread the way it has. As the CDC notes, people who contract C. auris often are in the hospital for other reasons when they find out about the fungus, as its symptoms are not immediately clear, and can have it for a long time, too.

According to a paper published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, about C. auris clinical cases from 2013 to 2017 in and around New York City, the majority of people who contracted it had been either in long-term care facilities or nursing homes before being diagnosed with the infection, and nearly half died within 90 days. If drugs don't catch up to the infection's rapid spread, though, it's entirely likely that infections like C. auris could spread to people who are healthy, too.

C. auris also has a habit of spreading everywhere, which is partially why the CDC has deemed it a "global emerging threat." In the case of a man at Mount Sinai's Brooklyn division, who was admitted for abdominal surgery but died from the infection, the germ proved "so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it," as the Times reports. Some experts believe that its spread is related to using antibiotics abundantly.

The CDC is currently working on trying to pinpoint the mutations that make the infection resistant to antifungal drugs through genetic sequencing. In the meantime...wash your hands, and stay safe out there.

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