ASM Microbe

ASM Microbe

June 23, 2019
4 min read

Skin shedding may contribute to spread of C. auris

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SAN FRANCISCO — Patients colonized with Candida auris carry a high burden of the emerging and often multidrug-resistant fungal pathogen on their skin, suggesting that the natural process of skin shedding among these patients leads to contamination of the heath care environment and contributes to transmission, according to findings presented at ASM Microbe.

C. auris presents a public health concern because of its ability to cause large and persistent outbreaks, such as the outbreak in New York City hospitals. The specific mechanisms of transmission are not clear, which makes controlling these outbreaks difficult, according to Joe Sexton, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, and colleagues.

It is known that patients with C. auris can remain colonized for months, and the researchers underscored the pathogen’s ability to colonize a patient’s skin and survive on dry surfaces for weeks. C. auris has been found on many surfaces in the health care environment, including beds, windowsills, doorknobs and mobile equipment, but it is unclear how they are becoming contaminated, Sexton and colleagues noted.

“We’re trying to learn how Candida auris spreads because what I think makes Candida auris so concerning compared with other pathogenic yeast is that it’s transmissible,” Sexton told Infectious Disease News. “We’re still trying to learn how it spreads from person to person. This study is the first in that it looks into that mechanistically.”

Photo of a patient in a hospital bed 
Colonized patients carry a high burden of C. auris on their skin, and the natural process of shedding may explain contamination of the health care environment.
Source: Adobe Stock

According to Sexton and colleagues, an unnamed ventilator-capable skilled nursing facility is currently experiencing an outbreak of C. auris that started with a single case in March 2017. Although the facility implemented contact precautions, bleach disinfection of surfaces and chlorhexidine decolonization, the proportion of patients testing positive for C. auris increased to 71% since the first case was identified, the researchers reported.

They investigated the relationship between C. auris concentrations in composite swab samples of bilateral axilla or groin skin collected from 28 patients and two environmental samples collected from surfaces associated with each patient., resulting in 56 total environmental samples.

Sexton and colleagues reported high C. auris concentrations in the skin swabs of colonized patients that “often exceeded” 106 to 107 cells/mL. They observed a “strong, positive and statistically significant” relationship between C. auris concentrations in the skin swabs with their associated environmental samples.

“This provides an answer, mechanistically, of how those surfaces get contaminated. I hope this can help guide infection control efforts, focusing on decontaminating surfaces that are high touch for the patients, especially the bed,” Sexton said.

“The idea is that we can use mechanistic insights to improve the way we approach infection control to help focus on the most important things to decontaminate.” – by Marley Ghizzone


Sexton J, et al. Mechanisms of Candida auris transmission within the health care environment; Presented at: ASM Microbe; June 20-24, 2019; San Francisco.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.