Candida auris: How Environmental Hygiene Protects Vulnerable Patients

COVID-19 has not been the only pathogen that has been spreading the last few years. Candida auris has taken a hold, not only in the United States but around the world. Here are the details and how environmental hygiene practices can protect patients in a health care setting.

While the world was fighting COVID-19, Candida auris was taking hold and spreading exponentially. This terrifying pathogen can cause severe illness and remain on diverse surfaces for an unspecified length of time. While it is a yeast, it behaves like a bacteria, and it spreads easily in the health care setting among vulnerable patients.

Doe Kley, RN, MPH, CIC, T-CHEST, speaks with Infection Control Today® (ICT®) about C auris and to talk about her presentation “Candida auris: An Emerging Threat” at The Association for Health Care Environment (AHE) annual conference: : AHE Exchange, AHE Conference & Solution Center,, held on October 3-5, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

Kley is the principal infection preventionist for The Clorox Company (health care division), and she also teaches an infection control course for The Ohio State University. She is a registered nurse with an undergrad in microbiology, and she holds a masters degree in public health. She is board certified in infection control and epidemiology with 20 years of hospital infection control experience.

“Unfortunately, while our attention was singularly focused on COVID-19, Candida auris, took full advantage,” Kley tells ICT® in the exclusive interview. “And it really seems to have gotten a solid foothold in this country. Several of the contributing factors include the PPE [personal protective equipment] and the supply shortages, the staffing challenges, and interruptions to our usual surveillance programs, which help infection preventionists identify pathogens like this early. The pandemic disrupted those things. And, of course, the nature of a COVID-19 infection that's severe enough to land a patient in the hospital is high risk in and of itself for acquiring a pathogen like C auris. We saw a 60% increase in C auris case counts during the pandemic.”

As frightening as C auris is, Kley explains that healthy people are at a very low risk of acquiring the pathogen, including health care workers. Cleaning and disinfecting is the key to preventing outbreaks. “But it's an important reminder about the importance of frequent hand hygiene, wearing PPE when it's appropriate, wearing it properly and taking it off properly, and then keeping surfaces clean and disinfected, especially the zone around the patient bed as well as any high touch surfaces. And with this particular pathogen, mobile or portable equipment.”