Novel Drugs Effective Against Dangerous Multi-Drug-Resistant Fungal Infection, Study Shows

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Researchers tested candidate drugs on newly developed animal model

UH Clinical Update | March 2021

Researchers at UH Cleveland Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have shown for the first time that novel drugs used to treat multi-drug-resistant Candida auris infections are indeed effective in clearing skin colonized with the fungus. The researchers tested the drugs on a new animal model specially designed for the study. Now that these promising results are in, the next step is clinical trials to show the efficacy of the formulations in humans. The results were published recently in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

“Candida auris is causing infections globally, and the currently available drugs fail to treat it,” says Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, FAAM, FIDSA, Director of the Center for Medical Mycology at UH, and the Marti D. and Jeffrey S. Davis Family Master Clinician in Cancer Innovation, who led the research team. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified this fungus as a serious threat. It is also a source of hospital infections as it colonizes the skin and can spread easily to other patients and healthcare workers. This spread can lead to hospital closure. Therefore, discovery of new drugs that are effective against this organism is critical.”

Dr. Ghannoum is also Professor of Dermatology and Pathology at the School of Medicine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Candida auris infection can cause bloodstream infections and even death, particularly in hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems. More than one-third of patients with invasive infection, such as an infection that affects blood, heart, or brain, die.

For the study, Dr. Ghannoum and the research team developed an animal model to screen candidate drugs, creating a skin colonization model. They then evaluated the efficacy of two different novel agents in clearing skin colonization with Candida auris: 1% Terbinafine and 1% Clotrimazole.

Results show that both treatments were effective in clearing skin colonized with Candida auris.

“They significantly reduced fungal burden compared to that found in control groups,” Dr. Ghannoum says. “Our data show that these novel drugs may be promising candidates to interrupt skin colonization by this emerging resistant fungus.“

Dr. Ghannoum says he hopes these results will contribute to the urgent work already under way to confront multi-drug-resistant Candida auris in health care facilities. More effective treatments are desperately needed, he says.

“If we do not decolonize the skin of patients, the fungus will spread to other patients, health care workers and the hospital environment,” he says. “Since it is resistant to commercially available antifungal drugs, the spread of the fungus will increase the rate of infection and can lead to closure of hospital wards where patients are staying. We have to do what we can to eradicate this infection threat.”

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