Drug-resistant C. auris fungi cases tripled in 2021 says CDC

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug-resistant Candida auris (C. auris) fungus cases “spread at an alarming rate in U.S. healthcare facilities in 2020-2021,” highlighting the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

C. auris is an emerging fungus that’s increasingly resistant to antifungals. C. auris cases have risen yearly since 2016, but officials saw cases triple during the COVID-19 pandemic, rising from 476 in 2019 to 1,471 in 2021. During the same time frame, 17 states identified their first case ever.

“In general, C. auris is not a threat to healthy people. People who are very sick, have invasive medical devices, or have long or frequent stays in healthcare facilities are at increased risk for acquiring C. auris,” explains the CDC.

But the rise in cases highlights the need to develop new antimicrobials, including antifungals, urgently.

“CDC has deemed C. auris as an urgent AR threat, because it is often resistant to multiple antifungal drugs, spreads easily in healthcare facilities, and can cause severe infections with high death rates,” continues the CDC.

Why we need to address drug-resistant C. auris fungi

In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first-ever fungal priority pathogens list, naming 19 fungi posing “the greatest threat to public health.”

C. auris is one of four fungi in the “critical” group, along with Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Candida albicans.

The growth of drug-resistant fungi highlights the need for “a robust pipeline of new antimicrobial medicines,” as Emily Wheeler, Director of Infectious Disease Policy at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), has said.

In better news, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new antifungal last week: REZZAYO, the first new drug for candidemia and invasive candidiasis in over a decade. The drug was developed by Cidara Therapeutics, Inc. and will be commercialized by Melinta Therapeutics, LLC, a BIO member company.

The once-weekly drug demonstrated “statistical non-inferiority versus caspofungin, a current once-daily standard of care,” said the press release from the two companies.

“We are thrilled that the FDA has approved REZZAYO, and are firmly committed to offering this innovative therapy to address unmet medical needs and simplify the treatment for patients suffering from invasive Candida infections,” said Melinta’s President and CEO, Christine Ann Miller. “We intend to leverage our expansive commercial infrastructure and experience launching anti-infective drugs into acute care settings. We are working closely with Cidara and anticipate bringing REZZAYO, a differentiated once-weekly treatment to patients, this summer.”

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