Atlanta

Cases of potentially deadly fungus have ‘tripled in numbers’ as it spreads across GA, the country

ATLANTA — Cases of a drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus have been reported around Georgia and metro doctors say it could impact the most vulnerable parts of the population the worst.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that an emerging fungus called Candida auris is spreading at an alarming rate in healthcare facilities across the country.

Dr. Jayne Morgan with Piedmont Healthcare said the fungus is actually a type of yeast.

“We’ve seen this yeast actually tripled in numbers between 2019 and 2021,” Morgan said.

Morgan said one thing that is concerning, is there are several strains of the fungus that have become prevalent at the same time.

“Four different types of strains. It is really unusual to see all four strains emerge at the same time. And so doctors and scientists are keeping an eye on it because it is quite unusual,’ Morgan said.

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At least 12 cases of C. auris have been reported in Georgia in the last year.

The fungus can be especially dangerous in people with weakened immune systems. The fungus is not a threat to those who are generally healthy, according to CDC.

“We can see the proliferation of this type of fungus in long-term care facilities,” Morgan said. “The other aspect that we want to keep an eye on is that it really can proliferate on surfaces for a long period of time. So, it can take over hospital rooms, on bed linens, towels, walls, lamps. It really can adhere to that and stay for a long period of time.”

The CDC says the COVID-19 pandemic likely drove part of the increase in cases.

C. auris spreads easily and can infect wounds, ears, and the bloodstream. Some strains are so-called superbugs that are resistant to all three classes of antibiotic drugs used to treat fungal infections.

It was first identified in Japan in 2009 and has been seen in more and more countries. The first U.S. case occurred in 2013, but it was not reported until 2016. That year, U.S. health officials reported 53 cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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