Raising concern regarding antibiotic-resistant infections and the challenges they pose in prevention and treatment efforts reached a climax earlier this week, when health authorities reported 30 cases of Candida auris in the United States.

This deadly fungus is resistant to a wide variety of antibiotics, with strains showing immunity to all commercially available antifungal drugs — a previously common trait only for bacteria, now seen for the first time in fungal infections.

The gravity of this life-threatening infection has been amply stressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it wasn't until recently that C. auris was systemically studied.

A new research by scientists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, looked into 16 strains of C. auris isolated from patients in four different countries — Germany, Japan, Korea and India.

Their findings, published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, revealed an experimental drug called SCY-078 showed considerable progress in inhibiting the fungus's development.

"Understanding the virulence of C. auris and showing that the investigational drug is effective may lead to the development of new medications to combat this emerging health threat," said the study authors.

Lab Experiments Suggest It Could Stop Candida Auris Infections

Researchers tested a series of 11 drugs on the isolated fungus strains to see which antifungal class was more potent against C. auris and to discover the optimal drug concentrations that could potentially hinder the infection. Although the majority of drugs showed to be only partially effective, the new experimental compound was found to "severely distort" the fungus and diminished its development.

According to Mahmoud Ghannoum, Ph.D., study lead author and Center for Medical Mycology director in CWSU's Department of Dermatology, SCY-078 could provide a serious base for drug development in the treatment of C. auris infections.

During lab experimentations, the investigational compound proved effective in stopping the fungus's division process, which suggests its underlying potential in curbing the infection or at least reducing its ability to spread.

C. auris is typically found in hospitals, forming biofilms — fungi communities very resistant to drugs — on catheters in intensive care units. Dr. Ghannoum placed the isolated samples on silicone surfaces designed to replicate catheters and then exposed the fungus to the newly developed antifungal compound. The experiment revealed that, under the effect of SCY-078, C. auris biofilms began to weaken.

Even though this result depended on the specific fungus strain used for testing, Dr. Ghannoum is confident it could be applicable to fight off catheter-associated infections. In earlier experiments, SCY-078 successfully inhibited other types of Candida fungi that are also found on catheters, including C. albicans and C. tropicalis.

"This drug is especially promising because of its broad anti-Candida activity, including activity against drug-susceptible and resistant strains," said Dr. Ghannoum.

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