C. auris threat underscores hospitals' infection control challenges

The rapid spread of Candida auris in hospitals is highlighting poorly funded and understaffed infection prevention efforts, The Washington Post reported March 21.

C. auris spreads primarily in long-term acute care hospitals and skilled nursing facilities and is considered a global public health threat because of its resistance to antifungal drugs and disinfectants. Hospital-acquired infections affect 1 in 31 hospital patients and 1 in 43 nursing home residents who are seeking medical care, according to CDC data. In 2021, the CDC reported more than 27,000 hospital-acquired infections from intravenous lines, more than 24,000 from catheters and more than 50,000 from ventilators.

"Infection control within healthcare is extremely neglected," Saskia Popescu, PhD, an assistant professor at George Mason University who is an expert in infection prevention, told the Post. "We expect hospitals to continuously respond to growing and emerging infectious-disease threats but don't give them the resources to do so."

Exposure for elderly, severely ill or immunocompromised patients is inevitable, but the risk can be mitigated with infection prevention protocols such as regular surveillance, isolation, protective equipment, proper hand hygiene and deep cleaning, according to the report. But many of these protocols were upended when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

C. auris is one of eight antimicrobial-resistant pathogens that had an alarming increase from 2019 to 2020. The CDC estimated more than 29,400 people died of such infections in the first year of the pandemic, and nearly 40 percent were infected in a hospital.

Hospital accreditation organizations and federal regulators require acute care hospitals to employ infection prevention specialists but do not set standards for staffing or funding, experts told the Post. As hospitals face financial and staffing challenges, infection control becomes more difficult, Akin Demehin, senior director of policy at the American Hospital Association, told the Post. "That is why we continue to advocate for needed financial support to hospitals, and for supportive workforce resources and policies across all levels of government," he said.

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