What Is Candida Auris?

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First recognized in 2009, Candida auris is a yeast (a fungus) that can lead to candidiasis, a dangerous and potentially lethal disease. This fungus becomes especially problematic when it enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body. Not only is this condition hard to detect, but it also leads to infections as it spreads.

What makes Candida auris alarming is that infections are most often detected within hospitals and clinical environments. Notably, more than 1,400 cases were reported within the U.S. from March 2021 to February 2022 , with the most occurring in California, Floria, New York, and Illinois. While this is by no means a common infection, its rise in recent years is alarming.

Candida Auris Symptoms

Verywell / Laura Porter

Symptoms

The symptoms of Candida auris infection—called candidiasis—depend on what part of the body is affected. Further complicating matters is that, since the disease most often arises in clinical environments and in patients who are already suffering from other conditions, signs can easily be missed.

Antifungal Resistance

A characteristic of Candida auris infection is that standard antifungal medications are sometimes completely ineffective or work poorly.

Antifungal resistance is an ongoing issue that can develop over time with the general use of antifungal medications. Plus, fungicides that kill and prevent fungus in agriculture may also contribute to resistance in those exposed to the fungicides. 

Ear Infection

An ear infection is characterized by either sharp or dull pain in the ear canal, a feeling of “fullness” in the ear, muffled hearing, ear drainage, and nausea.

Wound Infection

Characterized by bacterial invasion of tissues from a wound that is healing, this infection leads to inflammation, redness around the site of injury, discharge of yellowish or orange pus from the wound, increased tenderness around the wound, delayed healing, and fever.

Blood Infection

Probably the most dangerous outcome of Candida auris spread is infection of the bloodstream. This potentially fatal condition is characterized by fever, chills, pain, and a general feeling of tiredness and malaise.

Urine samples have also been found with Candida auris, though it’s unclear how much of a risk there is of bladder infection.

Untreated cases of Candida auris infection can lead to coma, and more than one-third of serious infections that are in the bloodstream and/or affect the brain or heart lead to death.

Causes

Spores of this fungus can reside within clinical equipment and on surfaces in hospitals, becoming especially dangerous if they’re present in tubes and catheters used in medical procedures.

While it’s generally harmless if present on closed skin, problems arise if there’s a wound or contact with the bloodstream. Infections often occur in those who are hospitalized with other health conditions.

While the rise in cases over the last couple years is alarming, it’s important to note that Candida auris infection is rare. Most healthy adults, for instance, are unlikely to contract candidiasis; however, possible risk factors may include recent surgery, diabetes, or heavy use of antibiotics or antifungals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diagnosis

Like other kinds of bacterial infections, detection of Candida auris requires blood tests as well as those of other bodily fluids. While there are a number of these tests, the problem with detecting this pathogen is that it’s very similar to others of the same family and can be misdiagnosed; a quick diagnosis is rarely possible.

According to the CDC, a category of tests is likely the most effective: matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF). However, researchers and healthcare providers note that more accurate testing is needed.

Treatment

The biggest obstacle when it comes to treating these fungal infections is that it can be very resistant to antifungal medication.

Preventative approaches such as ensuring hands are kept clean and medical equipment and surfaces are hygienic are surely the best bet to prevent spread.

A class of antifungals called echinocandins can treat most infections and is recommended as the initial treatment. These include:

  • Eraxis (anidulafungin)
  • Cancidas (caspofungin)
  • Mycamine (micafungin)

However, some Candida auris infections are resistant to all the main classes of antifungals, and multiple antifungals at high doses may be needed. A healthcare provider experienced in treating difficult fungal infections should be involved in this treatment plan, according to the CDC.

Antifungal susceptibility tests can be done in the lab to help guide a selection of medications. It can test the concentration of a drug needed to effectively treat a strain of the fungus.

Because Candida auris can develop resistance quickly, patients receiving antifungal therapy should be monitored carefully with follow-up blood tests.

A Word From Verywell

Not only is it important to keep an eye on hygiene, you have to let your healthcare provider know if you suspect you have symptoms or something seems off. Prognosis improves a great deal with earlier diagnosis. While there’s more to learn about this condition, it has caught the attention of public health officials and healthcare providers, which helps with prompt testing and early treatment and may lead to stronger treatments.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tracking Candida auris.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antifungal resistance.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Candida auris: a drug-resistant germ that spreads in healthcare facilities.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General information about Candida auris.

  5. Centers of Disease Control. Identification of Candida auris: Candida auris: fungal diseases.

  6. UpToDate. Antifungal susceptibility testing.

Additional Reading
  • Shmerling R. The latest deadly superbug — and why it’s not time to panic - Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/candida-auris-the-latest-deadly-superbug-and-why-its-not-time-to-panic-2019050816606.