Researchers have now shown that patients who are heavily colonised with Candida auris on their skin can shed the fungus and contaminate their surroundings. This finding provides an explanation for the extensive contamination that often occurs in healthcare facilities with C. auris outbreaks. These results can help inform infection control efforts. The research was presented at ASM Microbe, the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology held in San Francisco over the weekend.
Understanding how C. auris spreads in healthcare facilities is essential for infection control. Because C. auris can be present on the skin without causing symptoms, it has been hypothesised that the spread of C. auris occurs as patients naturally shed their skin cells. This process could lead to substantial contamination of the surrounding environment and therefore increase chances of transmitting C. auris.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers developed methods to count C. auris in samples collected from patients’ skin and their rooms. They found that patients can have very high concentrations of C. auris on their skin, and higher levels of C. auris on their skin were correlated with higher levels of C. auris on the patient’s bed.
“This finding supported our hypothesis that patients are actively shedding C. auris cells into their environment,” said Joe Sexton, ORISE post-doctoral fellow in the Mycotic Diseases Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who designed and led the study. The researchers were able to culture live C. auris from the beds of all patients who tested positive, and even beds that were previously, but no longer, occupied by patients with C. auris.
“These results should be considered in developing more effective strategies for infection control efforts during a C. auris outbreak,” said Dr Sexton.