WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that 13 cases of Candida auris have occurred in the United States.
Candida auris is an infectious fungus known to resist most drugs and treatments. Infections are sometimes fatal, and are identified by white patches on the tongue or other parts of the body.
According to the CDC, 7 cases occurred between May 2013 and August 2016. The remaining 6 were found after the initial report, and are currently under investigation. Researchers with the agency discussed the infection events in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"We need to act now to better understand, contain and stop the spread of this drug-resistant fungus," CDC director Tom Frieden said in a press release. "This is an emerging threat, and we need to protect vulnerable patients and others."
The report is the first to describe U.S. instances of C. auris infections in detail, and follows a clinical alert issued in June. The agency says it is collaborating with several state and local departments to learn more about the infectious fungus. While 4 patients have been reported dead, it is not yet clear if they succumbed to their infections or died by some other means.
"It appears that C. auris arrived in the United States only in the past few years," CDC Mycotic Disease Branch chief Tom chiller explained. "We're working hard with partners to better understand this fungus and how it spreads so we can improve infection control recommendations and help protect people."
The agency is calling for medical professionals to implement strict Standard and Contact precautions, and report all instances of C. auris infections to federal, state and local health departments.
Candida auris is a ascomycetous species of fungus that grows as yeast, and one of the few species of its kind known to cause candidiasis infections in humans. Symptoms of such infections include difficulty swallowing, genital itching, burning and sometimes a white "cheese-like" discharge.