In 2010 alone, MRSA killed 19,000 people, sent 7 million people to the ER worldwide, and cost $8 billion in medical costs, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Since then, infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA have continued to prove deadly and, more dangerously, extremely contagious. With conventional antibiotics and questionable treatments such as bleach baths proving futile in most cases, MRSA natural treatments including dietary and lifestyle modifications have saved the day for many.
Well, there’s a new bad guy in town, and this time, it’s a fungus instead of a bacteria.
Candida auris (C. auris) is a “super fungus” that is resistant to anti-fungal drugs, the best known being fluconazole and nystatin.
If the word Candida sounds familiar, it should!
Candida albicans, a usually benign strain of yeast, is found in the human digestive tract. In a healthy person, this fungus is held in check by beneficial bacteria, or probiotics that cohabitate in the intestinal tract. When poor diet and/or antibiotics come on the scene killing off the beneficial microbes, however, this normally innocuous yeast takes advantage and rapidly spreads. If no attempts to repress it and bring the gut back into balance are made, it can wrest control of the gut environment from the beneficial microbes.
Over time, if leaky gut issues develop, Candida overgrowth can literally spill into the bloodstream via perforations in the intestinal wall. From there, yeast can colonize other tissues of the body presenting as the following very common symptoms:
- Nail fungus
- Skin infections
- Yeast infections
- Chronic peeling skin on feet
- Chronic bladder infection problems
- Chronic fatigue
The Domino Effect to Anti-Fungal Drugs
Many people rely on antibiotics as a crutch when they get sick. Frequently these meds are used even for conditions where they shouldn’t such as ear infections or viruses like the common cold.
The price for the easy convenience of meds? The good microbes (probiotics) are killed off along with the pathogenic bacteria causing the illness. Patients get better fast but at a huge price. Candida albicans gains a quick advantage, eventually becoming dominant if an unhealthy lifestyle is continued. Steps can be taken to repair the gut after antibiotics, but the vast majority of people don’t do it. Worse, most doctors don’t even mention the need for it when the script is handed out. Incidentally, the birth control pill unbalances the gut environment too according to Natasha Campbell-McBride MD. Most women taking it are completely unaware of this long term threat to health.
After health problems stemming from chronic yeast inevitably develop, the fallback position with conventional doctors is to prescribe anti-fungal drugs to fend off recurring fungal infections.
The upshot of this hamster wheel of pharmaceutical use? The drug resistant fatal fungus – Candida auris.
Super Yeasts Following Same Growth Pattern as SuperBugs
The decades old pattern of antibiotic overuse is exactly how superbugs like MRSA and Clostridium difficile (C-Diff) got a foothold. A few isolated cases here and there, and now these superbugs seem to be everywhere. Infection with just MRSA affects 90,000 people per year and kills 20,000 in the US alone. This data is provided by the MRSA Research Center based at the University of Chicago.
The pattern since the discovery of C. auris is precisely the same. This species of super yeast reportedly originated in Delhi, India, with 12 affected patients in 2 hospitals. It was first identified in Japan in 2009. Since then, it has spread across the world in a matter of a few years. There have been ongoing breakouts in London and New York. In addition, the fungus has been diagnosed in South Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Kenya, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Israel (1).
Thirteen cases of Candida auris have been identified in the United States as of this writing. Seven of the cases occurred between May 2013 and August 2016. The remainder are still under investigation.
C. auris spreading rapidly across the globe is explained by the fact that identification requires “specialized laboratory methods”. As such, it can easily be misidentified as another strain of Candida (2). That’s not good for containment! But the real danger is that C. auris is resistant to antifungals, even strong ones like fluconazole. Of the cases so far in the United States, 71% of the strains have shown resistance. Sub-types from other countries have demonstrated resistance to all 3 major classes of antifungal medications.
Contagion Risk for C. auris
The average individual has taken numerous rounds of antibiotics in his/her lifetime. Consider that the average child has had 17 rounds of antibiotics before the age of 20 (3). The Standard American Diet of processed foods and lots of sugar also encourages an unhealthy gut. In those situations, yeast overgrowth is likely well established and exposure to Candida auris would be most concerning.
Thus, the average person with leaky gut and compromised immunity cannot simply rely on the crutch of antifungals should an infection with C. auris occur.
Infection at this point in time is most likely in a healthcare setting. But it is sure to spread within the community at large in the coming years much like MRSA has. People who share the same hospital room or long term care unit have been found with extremely similar strains of the fungus. These findings suggest that C. auris is contagious. Quick containment of this yeast is vital to the survival of the vulnerable people in hospitals, as C. auris causes deadly bloodstream infections.
There is good news. Vigilantly guarding gut health by using natural antibiotics (many of which are anti-fungal and anti-viral too unlike meds) for all but the most dire of situations and eating a wholesome, traditional diet is highly protective of immunity. So far, the majority of victims from C. auris are already chronically afflicted and immune compromised. “It’s really hitting the sickest of the sick,” says Tom Chiller, top fungal expert for the Centers for Disease Control (4).
Protecting Yourself from Candida Auris
Is the emergence of a super yeast concerning to you? If so, this news points out once again that there is (literally) no free lunch when comes to health. Popping pills instead of eating right and implementing healthy lifestyle practices has consequences. It’s like taking steroids and consuming heavily processed protein powders to quickly build muscle instead of working out sensibly and consuming whole food based protein. It may pay off in the short term, but in the long run there is the possibility of severe health issues.
Will Candida auris become a commonplace diagnosis for people in the United States like MRSA has over the past 10 years? Let’s hope not. Ultimately, only time will tell.
For those who wish to avoid this fatal fungus as it continues to spread, traditional diet and using natural remedies instead of meds to protect gut health is the most practical path just like it has been for avoiding MRSA and C. Diff.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.