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Case Western Reserve researchers developing treatment for drug-resistant fungus

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University are examining the next level of treatment for Candida auris (C.auris).

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.

Utilizing a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland are examining the next level of treatment for Candida auris (C.auris).

Described as a "multidrug-resistant yeast that causes serious infection and, in some cases, death," C.auris was first discovered in Japan and has since spread internationally. It first began spreading in the United States in 2015 and was deemed “an urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to its drug resistance. Possessing a 30-60 percent mortality rate, the fungus can be contracted through contact with contaminated medical equipment or spread person-to-person.

According to a release, the five-year grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of NIH will be used for a team led by researchers at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center to "evaluate and enhance an antifungal drug developed by the New Jersey-based biotech company, SCYNEXIS."

“What is different and particularly scary about Candida auris is that it can survive on skin and healthcare surfaces up to two weeks, allowing the spread from person to person in healthcare settings and nursing homes,” Mahmoud Ghannoum, professor of dermatology and pathology at the School of Medicine and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said in a statement.

Serving as the principal investigator, Ghannoum and Thomas McCormick, an associate professor at the School of Medicine, will lead the team of researchers in working on a drug therapy that not only may treat C. auris, but prevent it.

“This fungus is not usually killed by clinically used antifungal drugs, which makes infection difficult to treat and can often result in death for patients. It is also difficult to identify with standard laboratory methods,” Ghannoum said. “We hope to develop new antifungal compounds that will lead to clinical drugs through the research supported by this grant.”

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