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Global health threat from Candida auris yeast
The yeast Candida auris has caused numerous illnesses in various countries around the world in recent years. According to experts, the rare fungus is difficult to identify. It is also resistant to conventional antifungal agents. The CDC says that Candida auris is a "serious global health threat".
In the fall of 2016, the US health agency CDC reported for the first time about a new fungal disease that in some cases is fatal. The yeast Candida auris was therefore linked to several deaths in the United States. The fungus was first detected in 2009 in a patient in Japan as a causative agent of otomycosis (fungal disease of the external auditory canal). But it is now rampant in numerous other countries. According to the CDC, it is now a “serious global health threat”.
Infection can be life-threatening
Numerous microorganisms live on the skin, including yeasts. Candida fungi can be detected in about 75 percent of people.
With a healthy immune system, the yeasts on the skin and mucous membranes are usually not a problem.
They live on the skin without being noticed. And even if they lead to skin yeast diseases, simple home remedies for candida can often help.
However, if the new yeast Candida auris gets into the bloodstream, the infection that often occurs in hospitals and other health care facilities can be life-threatening.
Increased awareness without unnecessary scaremongering
"Candida auris can get into the bloodstream of those infected and cause sepsis, a so-called blood poisoning," said Professor Oliver Kurzai in a statement from the University of Würzburg, where the doctor holds the chair for medical microbiology and mycology.
He also heads the National Reference Center for Invasive Fungal Infections (NRZMyk) in Jena.
Professor Kurzai is one of the authors of a statement by experts from Germany and Austria, in which increased attention is recommended in connection with Candida auris, but at the same time it is warned against unnecessary alarmism.
Difficult to identify
However, Candida auris is a "serious global health threat", according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The authority justifies this mainly because the fungus is difficult to identify in the usual routine examinations and is difficult to treat due to the widespread resistance.
It is also dangerous because of outbreaks, especially in health facilities.
Candida auris colonizes the ears and respiratory tract, but it can also cause serious infections in the blood or in wounds.
People with weakened immune systems are at risk
According to health experts, the fungus is a deadly danger for people with a weakened immune system, diabetics or premature babies - these groups of people often suffer from multi-organ failure after being infected.
Based on the comparatively few cases to date, the CDC has determined that around 40 to 60 percent of the patients infected with Candida auris have died.
However, it is usually not possible to say exactly whether the fungus was actually the cause, because each of them was a seriously ill patient.
"Candida auris is not a threat to a healthy person," said Professor Kurzai.
Spreading could not be stopped yet
Experts are concerned that the spread has not yet been stopped. In recent years, numerous diseases with the dangerous yeast have been recorded in the USA, Great Britain and India, among others.
An increase in cases is also expected for Germany. So far, however, there have been only isolated cases.
The NRZMyk is aware of four cases, and one that was only reported orally.
In January 2018, Candida auris was detected for the first time in Austria by the Agency for Health and Food Security (AGES).
According to a statement, a patient in Styria visited a resident doctor because of long-lasting ear canal infection, who sent an ear smear to AGES for the purpose of testing for microbial pathogens.
According to the information, the patient was treated successfully.
New active ingredient gives hope
Since the yeast first appeared, researchers have been working to find out what makes it so aggressive and how it could be treated.
Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and the University Hospitals of Cleveland (Ohio) have apparently come a step further.
In one study, they showed that a new drug compound kills drug-resistant C. auris, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model that mimics a human infection.
According to a report by Science Daily, the experts tested the drug against 16 different strains of C. auris collected from infected patients in Germany, Japan, South Korea and India.
When they exposed the isolates to the new drug, they found it to be more effective than nine other antifungals currently available.
Promising antifungal agent
According to study leader Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, professor of dermatology at the medical faculty at Case Western Reserve University, the most exciting element of the study is that it takes patients one step closer to a promising antifungal.
It forms the basis for phase 1 clinical trials that examine low concentrations of the drug in healthy adults and test potential safety concerns.
Such studies are urgently needed because C. auris infection has become a serious threat to healthcare facilities worldwide - and drug resistance is increasing.
"Limited treatment options require the development of new drugs that are effective against this devastating infection," said Ghannoum. "We hope that in a way we have contributed to the development of new drugs."
The results of the study were published in the specialist magazine "Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy". (ad)