LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Nevada has the highest concentration of a superbug causing health complications and death nationwide, though experts are unclear as to exactly why.
Candida auris is nothing new: The CDC first recorded an infection in the U.S. in 2013. But now, the agency lists the fungus as an “urgent threat” as 27 states and the District of Columbia all reported cases, according to a March 2023 Annals of Internal Medicine report.
The fungus, also known as C. auris, is a form of yeast not usually harmful to healthy people, though increasingly harmful to patients in hospitals, Dr. Marc Kahn Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine Dean said.
“If you and I got this fungus in our skin, assuming we have intact skin, we’re likely not going to get sick from this. But, if it gets introduced through a line, through a catheter, through a tube, that’s how we’d get sick,” Kahn added during a virtual interview Tuesday afternoon.
Candid auris can cause shaking, fevers, chills and if it gets into the bloodstream, damage to internal organs, Dr. Kahn said.
Infection is more likely to occur in hospital settings where those catheters, tubes, and other lines provide easy access inside the body to those most prone to sickness.
In November, Infection Disease Professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, Dr. William Schaffner, told 8 News Now that those infected are put into isolation.
“When patients are infected, they are put in their private rooms in isolation, and health care workers wear gowns and gloves caring for them so they won’t spread it to others,” Dr. Schaffner said.
Health professionals are working to best treat treatment-resistant infections. That’s key in Nevada as the state leads the nation with the highest concentration of infections.
The CDC reported 16 percent of all cases nationally were in Nevada in 2022. That’s 384 out of the country’s 2,377 clinical cases.
But, as to why Nevada is seeing the highest number, Dr. Kahn says not enough information has been gathered to definitively answer that.
“It may have something to do with our climate. It may have something to do with our hospitals. And I just don’t think we have an answer to why that is,” Kahn said. “I think we’re going to find it’s something in the environment or something else if I had to guess. But right now, we just don’t know.”
Until more is learned, infections are rejecting the three kinds of anti-fungal drugs being used to treat them.
“Over time, we’re going to have to find better ways to treat infection,” Kahn said.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, an authority on Candida auris, told 8 News Now in late March that a compound seemingly effective against the fungus has been identified.
However, testing to prove this could take several months before potential use to treat infections.
Though these doctors say this superbug is not something the general public should worry about, the CDC reported that cases tripled nationally over the past three years.
In Nevada, cases have increased by nearly 46% since November 2022.