- A fungus called candida auris is spreading around the world at an alarming rate because it is resistant to drug treatments.
- In a recent case study, a man with HIV and syphilis went blind in his right eye. His doctor discovered it was because his eye was infected with candida auris.
- There is only one other reported case of a person going blind because of a candida auris infection.
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A deadly, drug-resistant fungus called candida auris was first discovered in Japan in 2006, but it’s since spread around the globe at an alarming rate. Doctors are worried about its ability to evolve quickly, making it resistant to the drugs designed to treat it.
The CDC reported the first seven cases of candida auris in the United States in August 2016. In May 2017, a total of 77 cases were reported in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. After looking at people in contact with those first 77 cases, the CDC determined that the quick-spreading fungus had infected 45 more and deemed candida auris an “urgent threat.”
As of June 30, 2019, there are 725 confirmed cases of candida auris in the United States alone.
In a new case report from the Annals of Internal Medicine, published on September 9, a man who got candida auris in his right eye ended up going blind and needing the eye removed due to a resulting complication. His experience demonstrates how dangerous the fungus can be.
A recent case report illustrates that danger of candida auris
The 30-year-old man sought medical help because he couldn’t see out of his right eye. After doctors examined him, they learned he also had HIV and syphilis, two sexually transmitted infections that can weakend the immune system.
The man also told the doctors, who eventually authored the case report, that he had symptoms like fatigue, irritation in his right eye, and a blind spot in the centre of his visual field. Then, two days later, he woke up completely unable to see out of his right eye. Doctors said that his eye wasn’t responsive to light during the exam they gave.
To treat the man, doctors gave him various antibiotics and antifungal medications, plus a medication to prevent him from getting herpes. In other cases, doctors have been concerned that such medications might not work, due to the infection’s ability to evolve and resist drugs.
The man’s doctors in this case were also worried the man might develop a condition called cavernous sinus thrombosis, where a person’s blood clots in the area between the eye sockets and brain due to an infection. Cavernous sinus thrombosis can lead to death in around 30% of cases.
They offered the man medications and eye surgery for his infection to prevent the life-threatening condition, but according to the doctors, he refused.
A lab test confirmed the man had candida auris
The doctors sent a specimen from the man’s eye to a lab, which confirmed he did indeed have candida auris in his right eye. Eventually, the man agreed to have eye surgery to remove the eye that was infected with candida auris and to prevent further health issues from the thrombosis his doctors were concerned about.
Following the procedure, and after two weeks of receiving antibiotics and antifungal treatments, the man’s condition improved, doctors wrote, although they didn’t elaborate on which conditions. After the man was discharged, he never returned for a follow-up, so his doctors are unsure how he fared.
Nonetheless, the doctors said the case illustrates how life-altering a candida auris infection can be, especially in someone who already as a weakened immune system.
There has only been one other reported case where candida auris caused an eye infection. In that case, the infection seemed to be resistant to some of the drugs the patient received.