Molecular Epidemiological Investigation of a Nosocomial Cluster of <em>C. auris</em>: Evidence of Recent Emergence in Italy and Ease of Transmission during the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Fungi (Basel). 2021 Feb 15;7(2):140. doi: 10.3390/jof7020140.

ABSTRACT

Candida auris is an emerging MDR pathogen raising major concerns worldwide. In Italy, it was first and only identified in July 2019 in our hospital (San Martino Hospital, Genoa), where infection or colonization cases have been increasingly recognized during the following months. To gain insights into the introduction, transmission dynamics, and resistance traits of this fungal pathogen, consecutive C. auris isolates collected from July 2019 to May 2020 (n = 10) were subjected to whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and antifungal susceptibility testing (AST); patients' clinical and trace data were also collected. WGS resolved all isolates within the genetic clade I (South Asian) and showed that all but one were part of a cluster likely stemming from the index case. Phylogenetic molecular clock analyses predicted a recent introduction (May 2019) in the hospital setting and suggested that most transmissions were associated with a ward converted to a COVID-19-dedicated ICU during the pandemic. All isolates were resistant to amphotericin B, voriconazole, and fluconazole at high-level, owing to mutations in ERG11(K143R) and TACB1(A640V). Present data demonstrated that the introduction of MDR C. auris in Italy was a recent event and suggested that its spread could have been facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continued efforts to implement stringent infection prevention and control strategies are warranted to limit the spread of this emerging pathogen within the healthcare system.

PMID:33672021 | DOI:10.3390/jof7020140