Is a deadly fungus spreading rapidly across the US?

By March 21, 2023 Health, Science

We came across a post on Twitter, claiming that a deadly fungus is spreading through the US at an alarming rate, and referring to an article published in Sky News UK.

The Sky News article, which was published on 21 March 2023, details a drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus spreading across the US. The fungus, first reported in the US in 2016, is a type of yeast called Candida auris (“C. auris”). It can be found on the skin and throughout the body and can cause severe illness in those with a weakened immune system.

While generally not a threat to healthy individuals, as the fungus usually infects the extremely ill, C. auris does result in the death of about a third of those infected. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of infections in the US increased by 95%.

The spread of C. auris in the US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has confirmed that C. auris has spread at an alarming rate in US healthcare facilities between 2020 to 2021 and is at an increased threat of spread in healthcare facilities. It attributed the increase in C. auris infection case counts to various reasons such as poor general infection prevention and control in healthcare facilities and enhanced efforts to detect cases.

The CDC also highlighted that patients who have been hospitalised in a healthcare facility for a long time with lines and tubes inserted (such as feeding tubes), appear to be at the highest risk of infection. While more research is necessary to understand how C. auris spreads, it is understood to spread through contaminated surfaces or equipment, or from person to person.

Reports of the rapid spread of C. auris have even led to some likening the spread of the fungus to the plot of “Last of Us”, a popular HBO show. The show revolves around a post-apocalyptic America, 20 years into a pandemic, ­caused by a widespread fungal infection that forces its host to turn into a zombie-like creature.

While C. auris does not turn people into zombies, common infections with this fungus include bloodstream infections, wound infections, and ear infections.

C. auris infections are concerning as they are difficult to identify without special laboratory tests. Although infections from C. auris can be treatable, some C. auris infections are resistant to various antifungal drugs which have been habitually used to treat the fungus.


C. auris in Singapore

C. auris infections are not new to Singapore, with the first local case reported in 2012. While there have been isolated cases of C. auris infections, there has been no reported outbreak of infections in Singapore.

However, C. auris remains a potential threat, with the World Health Organisation classifying it among the greatest fungal threats to public health as of October 2022.


Hence, it is true that a potentially deadly fungus is spreading across the US although it is generally not a threat to healthy individuals.

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