A deadly, drug-resistant fungus emerging in the US gained ground faster and picked up yet more drug resistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Monday.
The yeast Candida auris has been considered an "urgent threat"—the CDC's highest level of concern—since it was first reported in the US in 2016. The yeast lurks in health care settings and preys upon vulnerable patients, causing invasive infections with a fatality rate of between 30 to 60 percent.
In 2019, before the pandemic began, 17 states and Washington, DC, reported a total of 476 clinical cases. But in 2020, eight additional states reported cases for the first time, with the national clinical case count jumping 59 percent to 756. In 2021, 28 states were affected, with the clinical case count nearly doubling to 1,471. Asymptomatic cases detected through patient screening also jumped amid the pandemic, tripling from 1,310 cases in 2020 to 4,041 cases in 2021. The data appeared Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
“The rapid rise and geographic spread of cases is concerning and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance, expanded lab capacity, quicker diagnostic tests, and adherence to proven infection prevention and control,” Meghan Lyman, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the study, said in a statement.