Candida Auris: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on June 30, 2023
3 min read

Candida auris (often shortened to C. auris) is a type of yeast that can cause serious illness, especially in people who are in the hospital. It often doesn’t respond well to common antifungal medications, which makes it hard to treat.

C. auris can affect people of any age and lead to serious conditions like blood, wound, or ear infections.

The infection can even be deadly. Based on limited data, researchers have found that 30% to 60% of people with C. auris infections have died. But many of them also had other severe health conditions.

Experts discovered the yeast in 2009 in Japan, but later studies found that the first strain was present in 1996 in South Korea. Researchers consider C. auris to be especially concerning because it’s causing more infections around the world.

Doctors have found C. auris infections in more than 30 countries, including the United States. But there’s a lack of special lab materials to check for it, so it’s likely to be in even more places.

Doctors usually diagnose this infection using someone’s blood or fluids. But C. auris is harder to find in these samples than some more common infections. It can easily be confused with other types of yeast. So your doctor will usually send samples to a lab for special testing.

If you’ve come into contact with someone with C. auris, you can have another test to see if you’re carrying the fungus. Your doctor will wipe a cotton swab on the skin around your armpits and your groin. They’ll send the swab to a lab to look for C. auris. If the test shows that you have it, your doctor will help you figure out the next steps to keep you and those around you safe.

If you have a C. auris infection, your doctor will first treat you with a type of antifungal medication called an echinocandin. But the yeast can be resistant to these drugs. If this is the case, your doctor will need to use multiple high-dose antifungal treatments to get rid of your infection.

It’s important to use these treatments only if you have a confirmed C. auris infection. If you have the fungus but not an infection, treatment might be harmful and could raise your chances of becoming infected.

People who have been in a hospital or nursing home for a long time; who have any lines, tubes, or catheters going into their body; or who have taken antibiotics or antifungal drugs before seem to be at the highest risk for C. auris infection.

Some research also suggests that the risk factors are similar to those of other types of candida infections. These include:

Most infections happen when you carry C. auris fungus somewhere on your body. You probably won’t notice any symptoms, which makes it easier to pass the fungus to other people.

Experts are still looking into how it infects people, but they know that C. auris spreads in health-care facilities through contact with contaminated surfaces or tools, or from person to person. It doesn’t spread through coughing or sneezing.

If you’re in a hospital, nursing home, or other health care setting, wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. Workers should wear gowns and gloves and regularly clean and disinfect surfaces and tools.

If your doctor has diagnosed you with a C. auris infection, tell your health care provider every time you have an appointment or visit any type of medical facility. You should also:

  • Take antifungal medication exactly as prescribed
  • Follow all medical and hygiene advice that your doctor gives you
  • Avoid touching broken skin or bandages from the wound
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water
  • Tell others to wash their hands after caring for you, including medical staff
  • Ask others to use gloves when coming into contact with your body fluids or blood

Once you’ve been diagnosed with C. auris, it stays in your body forever. Even after you’re healthy enough to leave the hospital, it’s important to take extra safety measures any time you’re in a health care facility.