Deadly black fungus Candida auris has been labelled an “urgent threat” because many strains of the yeast are resistant to available treatments – but what symptoms should YOU watch out for?
Also known as C. auris, the infection has been detected in over half of American states since it first emerged in the US in 2016.
A recent study explored its rapid reach and found that the number of known cases have more than tripled across America between 2020 and 2021, and multidrug-resistant strains are becoming more common.
Nearly half of patients who contract C. auris die within 90 days, according to The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American College of Physicians (ACAP) have described the microscopic yeast strain as “concerning” because it is rarely detected in the natural environment, while The World Health Organisation has warned that fungal infections are becoming a “major threat” to public health.
Transmission mainly occurs among residents in healthcare facilities or those with indwelling devices or mechanical ventilators. It is unlikely that healthy people will develop black fungus, but among the frail and vulnerable, it kills between 30 and 60 percent.
The fungus is concerning because, unlike most fungi, it can spread from person to person, explained Dr. Scott Roberts, Associate Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Yale School of Medicine.
Symptoms of C. auris may be hard to spot because patients with the fungus are often already sick from other medical conditions and in hospital.
While only a laboratory test can diagnose the infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed the most common warning signs of C. auris. Here are the tell-tale signs to watch out for.
Fever and chills
The CDC explained the most common symptoms of invasive C. auris is a fever and chills that don’t improve after antibiotic treatment for a suspected bacterial infection.
According to NHS Inform, a fever is usually when your body temperature is 37.8°C or higher. You may feel warm, cold or shivery if you have a fever.
Chills are your body's way of raising its core temperature and this can be brought on by viruses, infections and other illnesses.
Fever and chills are the most common symptoms for bloodstream infections from C. auris. Bloodstream infections can also cause confusion and disorientation.
The fungus can enter the bloodstream, live on the skin, or other parts of the body such as the ear or wounds.
Patients may experience sharp or dull pain in the ear canal if C. auris fungus has reached that part of the body.
Verywell Health adds that a person may experience a feeling of “fullness” in the ear, muffled hearing, ear drainage and nausea.
The fungus kills more than one in three people with invasive C. auris, where it has spread to cause an infection such as in the ear, write the Daily Mail.
Another warning sign is if antibiotics are not treating fever and chills for a suspected bacterial infection. Antifungal treatment may also be completely ineffective or work poorly.
Some C. auris infections have been resistant to all three types of antifungal medications: azoles, echinocandins, and amphotericin B. Echinocandins are the first line of therapy given to treat C. auris.
The infection can target an existing open wound that is healing, leading to inflammation or redness around the site of injury – this is due to irritation causing dilatation of the blood capillaries.
There may be yellowish or orange pus from the wound, or an increased tenderness which takes longer to heal.
Some patients may experience a fever alongside a wound infection.
Tiredness and malaise
People with the infection may suffer from general tiredness and malaise, which is thought to be a signal for the body to recover.
Bloodstream infections can also cause sepsis, which can be life-threatening, and occurs when an infection you already have triggers a chain reaction throughout your body.
This can lead to multiple organ systems being damaged and shutting down.
Donald Vinh, a medical professor at McGill University in Montreal, warned that a warming planet could lead to the evolution of new types of diseases as fungi adapt and expand their location, leading to more infections.
Professor Vinh told Popular Mechanics: “Fungi are already adapting to warmer temperatures and expanding their location, leading to more infections.
"Meanwhile, advances in medicine lead to more susceptible patients, and the antifungal drugs available are losing their efficacy."
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