C. auris growing more drug-resistant, experts say

Infections caused by the fungi Candida auris and Aspergillus are becoming harder to treat with medication, experts told NBC News in an Aug. 13 report. 

The fungi are becoming more resistant to the class of drugs, known as azoles, frequently used to treat infections. There is now growing concern among health experts that current treatments could stop working before new ones are available.

"If we lose that drug class because of resistance, we're in big trouble," Dr. Darius Armstrong-James, an infectious disease physician at Royal Brompton Hospital in the U.K., told the news outlet. 

C. auris infections have been on the rise in healthcare settings since 2017, CDC data shows. In 2017, there were 170 clinical cases reported, compared to 1,465 in 2021. The pandemic gave C. auris more opportunities to spread, as many severe COVID-19 patients received central line catheters and workforce shortages hampered routine infection prevention protocols. Meanwhile, Aspergillus is a common mold found in the environment that most often affects those with weakened immune systems and chronic lung conditions. A recent CDC study cited an estimate that more than 14,000 people are hospitalized for invasive aspergillosis, which causes severe infection, each year. 

Several antifungal drugs are in late-stage studies with results expected in the next few years, though experts say the fungi could still develop resistance to new treatments over time if overused.

"If we don't manage resistance right now and if we don't boost the pipeline for the antifungals, we may very easily end up in a place in five to 10 years where you're having end-of-life discussions with a patient that has an invasive Candida infection," Luis Ostrosky, MD, chief of infectious diseases at UT Health Houston and Memorial Hospital, told NBC

Researchers estimate more than 90 percent of known C. auris strains are resistant to fluconazole, an antifungal commonly used to treat serious infections, and 73 percent are resistant to voriconazole. 

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