Have you been having nightmares about your elderly neighbor becoming infected with Cordyceps and relentlessly chasing after you to spread the “conscious” fungus through a fresh bite?  You may have if you have spent the last few months watching HBO’s “The Last of Us” along with 8 million other subscribers.  In that show, “Day Zero” of the zombie apocalypse begins when Cordyceps – a fungus that actually infects ants and turns them into zombie hosts for reproduction – mutates to survive in humans.

As infection control professionals, you know that what’s portrayed in shows like HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ is first and foremost science fiction. However, you also know that fungal infections are a genuine cause for concern. Nosocomial fungal infections in US hospitals, particularly Candida species, have become a focus of concern as antimicrobial resistant strains have been found with increasing frequency. Direct medical costs associated with fungal infections are estimated at $7.5 billion yearly. Candida species in particular have recently been reported as one of the most common causes of BSI in the US. Regarding HAIs, Candida spp. accounted for 6.4% of the 356,633 reported to the CDC between 2015 and 2017. In recent months, we have also noticed an increase in requests from our customers to investigate Candida related HAIs. 

At DZD, we use a whole-genome sequencing (WGS) based diagnostic technique for fungal HAI investigations to help you monitor, detect, and prevent their spread. Some species e.g. Candida auris are highly drug resistant and can easily be misidentified using traditional microbiology lab techniques, making it difficult to control or manage spread in healthcare facilities. WGS allows for high resolution species identification, strain typing and quantification of sample to sample variation; we’ll be able to tell immediately if samples are genomically related allowing you to trace the origin of an HAI if needed, or get on with business as usual.

Our epiXact® HAI service provides easy, cost-effective, and rapid (48hr) access to WGS-based short and long-term transmission analysis to help you get the next fungal or bacterial outbreak under control. Though fungal infections are highly unlikely to drag us into an apocalyptic nightmare, measures to improve infection control and antifungal stewardship are crucial…because hospital resource burden and patient HAI related deaths are scary too, right?

You can read more about DZD, our HAI surveillance services, case studies, and WGS & machine learning implementation into infectious disease diagnostics here.