If you or a loved one is admitted to the hospital, there is a new fungal infection in town that you may need to be aware of.
Currently, there are over 20 species of Candida yeasts that can cause infection in humans — the most common of which is Candida albicans. Recently the CDC has reported that as of March 16, 53 patients in the hospital have become sick from a new strain of Candida bacteria: Candida auris. (1, 3)
The concern however, is not with the outbreak itself that started in Japan and has now spread to several countries around the world, but with the fact that this strain of Candida bacteria seems to be resistant to almost all of the current anti-bacterial and anti-fungal drugs. (1, 3)
What is a Yeast Infection?
When most of us think of yeast infections, we think of the vaginal kind that affects primarily women. The term “yeast infection” is actually a broader term for Candidiasis, which has three types (1):
How does A Yeast Infection Occur?
Normally, Candida bacteria live in our intestinal tract, on mucous membranes, and on our skin without any problems. Everyone has Candida bacteria living in and on their bodies. Problems occur when overgrowth of the bacteria begins to happen. (1)
In healthy adults, oral candidiasis is extremely rare. Also known as roral thrush, it usually occurs in (1):
- babies less than a month old
- the elderly
- people who have weakened immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS patients
- those with diabetes
- those undergoing cancer treatment.
Vaginal Yeast Infections
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Vaginal yeast infections affect three out of every four women, though it can occur in men as well. (1,2) It often appears as an itchy, burning rash on and around the genitals, and can sometimes include a “cottage cheese-like” vaginal discharge in women. (2)
Pregnancy, long-term antibiotic use, and diabetes can all increase your chance of developing a yeast infection. On the flip side, wearing cotton underwear, immediately changing out of wet/damp clothing and swim suits, and using probiotics may help prevent these infections.(1, 2)
Invasive Candida Infections
Invasive candida infections typically occur in hospital settings and infect the bloodstream, eventually traveling to other organs of the body and can potentially have fatal results. (1)People at highest risk are immunocompromised patients in hospitals, those undergoing surgeries, diabetics, and those who have taken broad-spectrum antibiotics. (1)
Preventing these infections in high-risk patients is done through the use of antifungals, as well as extreme care in keeping hands clean, including patients, doctors, nurses, and visitors, to prevent spreading of bacteria on the skin. (1)
Candida auris is the newest form of invasive candida infections. Candida auris doesn’t cause thrush, but instead causes bloodstream, wound, or ear infections. (1) Most concerning is some strains of this bacteria are resistant to all three major classes of antifungal drugs, and persists on surfaces in hospitals and health care environments, spreading easily between patients. (1)
According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance has become one of the greatest threats to global health and security. (4) Candida auris bacteria have changed in response to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics by both health care providers and patients to become resistant to most antibacterial and antifungal drugs currently available. (4)
To treat Candida auris, we have to use increasingly strong antifungals — which is less than ideal. This is a problem because we can only make these drugs so strong until they also become toxic to humans. (3)
Who is at risk for Candida auris?
People who are at high-risk for developing Candida auris infections are (1):
- premature babies
- those with diabetes
- those on dialysis
- people with recent transplants
- people who have recently undergone invasive surgeries
The CDC has estimated that the rate of death for patients who contract Candida auris is 60%. (1)
Candida auris Prevention
Currently, there are not many drug companies working on this problem, however, some oral and intravenous treatments are being developed in Sweden, Japan, and the UK. In the meantime, extra care must be taken by healthcare professionals, patients, and hospital visitors to keep their hands clean, especially when dealing with immunocompromised patients. (1, 3)
Antibiotic Resistance Prevention
Several steps can be taken to prevent antibiotic resistance (4):
- only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary
- follow your doctor and pharmacists instructions when taking antibiotics, always complete the appropriate dose
- prevent infections through proper hygiene, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safe sex, and keeping up-to-date with doctors appointments and necessary medications
- naturally support your immune system through diet and lifestyle choices, herbal and vitamin supplements, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep
The CDC is doing more research into Candida auris in order to prevent this outbreak from spreading across the country. If you are a healthy person, you do not need to be concerned about contracting this infection while at the hospital. If you fit any of the criteria mentioned above, talk to your doctor, as well as spread the word to friends and family to help prevent this deadly bacteria from spreading.
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