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Show 1192: How a Scary Fungus Is Threatening the World

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Candida auris was virtually unknown a decade ago. Now it has acquired resistance to many antifungal medications and has caused infections around the world.
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You may have heard about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They can greatly complicate the treatment of infections. But have you ever heard of antifungal-resistant fungus? Infectious disease experts knew nothing about a scary fungus, Candida auris, less than two decades ago. It has acquired resistance to a number of potent antifungal medications. Consequently, it now poses threats of hard-to-treat infections in many corners of the globe.

What Is Candida Auris?

New York Times journalist Matt Richtel was looking for a suitable topic for a series of in-depth reports. When he asked the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they suggested he investigate Candida auris.  They were more worried about this scary fungus than about most other health problems, and when you listen to his story, we think you will be, too!

Candida auris was first identified in the ear of a Japanese woman about a decade ago. It wasn’t making her sick. Nonetheless, before long infectious disease experts started finding people who were very sick with this fungus. Because several strains have developed resistance to multiple common antifungal medications, the infections can be quite difficult to treat.

Who Is at High Risk?

People whose immune systems are compromised seem to be at highest risk. That includes the elderly, especially those living in nursing homes. However, millions of people taking medications that can suppress their immune systems are also in danger. These are drugs used to treat autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease or plaque psoriasis. What actions do we need to take to protect them? With the development of antifungal resistance, simple surgical procedures could pose life-threatening risks.

This Week's Guest:

Matt Richtel is a reporter at the New York Times. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting with a series of articles he expanded into his first nonfiction book. Ultimately, it became a New York Times bestseller, A Deadly Wandering.
Matt Richtel’s latest book is An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System: A Tale in Four Lives. His website is www.MattRichtel.com/ You can find his series on Candida auris at The New York Times.

The photograph of Matt Richtel is by Simona Deac.

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