CDC confirms nearly 600 cases of deadly drug-resistant fungus in US

The CDC has confirmed nearly 600 cases of a deadly multi-drug-resistant fungus in the U.S. as of February 28, with most cases concentrated in New Jersey, New York and Illinois.

The fungus, Candida auris, has presented a “serious global health threat” since its discovery in 2009, according to the CDC. It’s hard to identify, often mistaken for other types of fungi unless specialized lab technology is used, and thrives in healthcare environments where it can spread through contact with infected patients and contaminated equipment.

The CDC’s total clinical case count is 587, though the agency said that since its last monthly count an additional 1,056 patients have been found to be colonized with C. auris through targeted screenings. The fungus is most widespread in New York, where physicians have confirmed 309 cases, and in Illinois and New Jersey, where doctors have logged 144 and 104 cases, respectively.

Strains of C. auris in the U.S. have reportedly been linked to strains from other parts of the world, meaning the fungus might have been introduced inadvertently by a patient who received care in an infected area. Americans who contracted the fungus were found to have recently received healthcare in India, Kenya, Kuwait, Pakistan, South Africa and Venezuela—all countries with multiple reported cases of C. auris.

The CDC said the fungus doesn’t typically respond to antifungal medications commonly used to treat Candida infections, and some cases have been resistant to all three types of antifungal therapies. When an invasive case is left untreated it can trigger deadly bloodstream infections, resulting in a mortality rate of more than 33 percent.

Right now 12 U.S. states have reported at least one case of confirmed C. auris, but it’s becoming more common. According to the CDC it can be a difficult infection to spot, since most people who contract invasive C. auris infections are already sick from other conditions, but the most common symptoms are fever and chills that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment.

Current case counts, which are updated by the CDC monthly, can be found here.