Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Infectious Diseases

Section VI - Histoplasma Capsulatum

73. Candida species

Christopher R. Fox MD

Merle A. Sande MD

Essentials of Diagnosis

  • Characteristic appearance of yeast and hyphae on KOH preparations.
  • Formation of germ tubes in serum is presumptive diagnosis for Candida albicans.
  • Cultures must be interpreted with caution because positive culture may represent colonization rather than infection.
  • Serology not useful.

General Considerations

  1. Epidemiology.Candidaorganisms are commensal with humans and, in the absence of alterations in host defense mechanisms, usually do not cause disease. Candida exists as normal flora within the oral cavity, throughout the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, in expectorated sputum, in the vagina, and in the bladder of patients with indwelling catheters. There are >150 species within the genus Candida, although the majority are not known to cause disease in humans. C albicans, C krusei, C glabrata, C tropicalis, C pseudotropicalis, C guilliermondii, C parapsilosis, C lusitaniae, and C rugosa are known human pathogens.

Candida species cause a wide spectrum of clinical diseases that range from mild, superficial infection of the skin and mucous membranes to life-threatening, invasive, multisystem disease. Infection with Candida requires an alteration in the normal milieu that allows the fungus to proliferate and evade host responses.

Under correct conditions, Candida is able to infect any of the body's mucosal surfaces, as well as the skin. Three-quarters of women report vaginal candidiasis within their lifetime, and the incidence appears to have increased over the last 20 years. Risk factors include recent antibiotic use, pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, diabetes, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

Oral thrush is another frequent manifestation of mucosal candidiasis with similar risk factors to vaginal candidiasis. These risks include systemic disease such as HIV infection or diabetes, inhaled or oral corticosteroid use, and neutropenia induced by chemotherapy.

In addition to the local forms of disease described above, Candida species may cause invasive disease with systemic manifestations and multiple infected organs. Although once limited to the oncology ward and bone marrow transplant unit, candidemia is now more frequent in all areas of the hospital, with Candida the fourth most common organism reported from hospital blood cultures. Specific risk factors for invasive disease include previous isolation of Candida from another site, the use of antimicrobial agents, prolonged neutropenia, indwelling central catheters, and the use of parenteral nutrition.

Although the majority of Candida infections are caused by C albicans, several non-albicans species are emerging as important pathogens and deserve mention. C krusei appears to be less virulent than C albicans and rarely causes disease in the normal host. However, in those with depressed immune function, C krusei is able to cause significant infection. Candidemia, ocular infection, endocarditis, and renal disease all occur with some frequency. C krusei infection has important therapeutic implications as the organism is generally resistant to fluconazole. C glabrata, another Candida species with increasing recovery rates, usually has intermediate resistance to fluconazole.

  1. Microbiology.Candidais a fungus that exists primarily in the yeast state, although it may be found in tissue in both yeast and mold forms. The yeast cells are 4–6 µm in diameter and reproduce primarily by budding but also by sexual reproduction. In culture, Candida forms smooth white colonies, and a presumptive diagnosis of C albicans can be made by observing the formation of germ tubes within 90 min of placing the organism in serum. Candida will grow on agar plates and in routine blood culture bottles, although the lysis-centrifugation and the BACTEC systems have increased recovery of the organism.
  2. Pathogenesis.As previously mentioned, Candidais part of the normal flora in many areas of the body and, without alteration in host defense, does not cause disease. Factors particularly important to preventing infection are normal bacterial flora, intact skin and mucous membranes within the GI tract, and normal cell-mediated immunity. Alterations of any of the above mechanisms predispose to infection. This is seen clinically as the use of antibiotics (which alter the normal bacterial flora), maceration of the skin, GI surgery, HIV infection, and chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, all of which increase rates of Candida infection.

Candida produces proteins expressed within the cell wall that promote binding and adherence to epithelial cells, endothelium, platelet and fibrin clots, and plastics. These proteins likely help the organism attach to and invade damaged mucosa and may play a role in Candida infection in hosts with indwelling bladder and central venous catheters. Candida species also produce proteases and phospholipases, which may aid the organism in evading host defenses and invading mucosal surfaces.



Clinical Findings

  1. Signs and Symptoms.Skin infections with Candidaare common and may manifest in a variety of forms. Intertrigo occurs in warm, moist areas of skin, such as under the breast, in the groin, and in the axilla. Initially pustular or vesicular, lesions eventually become confluent to form an erythematous, macerated area of skin with a scalloped border and satellite lesions (Box 73-1). Erosio interdigitalis blastomycetica is similar to intertrigo but involves the areas between the fingers and toes. Paronychia is infection of the nail bed, seen more commonly in diabetics and people who frequently immerse their hands in water. Candida spp. may cause onychomycosis, particularly in HIV-infected patients. Candida spp. cause a rash in neonates in the region of diaper contact. Other common skin manifestations include folliculitis, balanitis, perianal candidiasis, and a generalized cutaneous eruption with widespread lesions resembling intertrigo that spread to involve the abdomen, chest, back, and extremities.

Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMC) is an abnormality of cell-mediated immunity that presents with recurrent infections of the skin and mucus membranes that may progress to disfiguring lesions (Candida granulomas) despite antifungal therapy. Symptoms usually begin in the first several years of life. CMC is associated with autoimmune endocrine failure, particularly hypoparathyroidism and adrenal insufficiency (polyglandular autoimmune syndrome type I), and endocrine disease often presents years to decades after the onset of CMC.

Cutaneous lesions may be superficial evidence of disseminated candidiasis and candidemia. Lesions are typically red or pink nodules 5–10 mm in diameter and may be single or widespread. Lesions resembling ecthyma gangrenosum or purpura fulminans have also been described.

  1. Laboratory Findings.Candidaorganisms, seen as budding yeast and hyphae, may be present on wet mount or KOH preparations of skin scrapings. Biopsy specimens may reveal characteristic fungal elements on histology.
  2. Differential Diagnosis.Candidainfection of the skin and nails may be confused with other infections, both fungal and nonfungal, as well as noninfectious conditions such as contact or allergic dermatitis.
  3. Complications.Candidainfection of the skin and nails may cause discomfort and disturb cosmetic appearance of the skin but does not usually cause long-term sequelae. CMC may progress to cause large disfiguring lesions.


Diagnosis of Candida infection involving the skin or nails is generally made by recognition of the clinical pattern followed by demonstration of fungal elements on a KOH preparation of skin scrapings. Candida infection may also be diagnosed by microscopic examination of biopsy specimens. Culture of the skin should be interpreted with caution, as the presence of Candida spp. may represent colonization rather than infection.


Treatment of Candida skin infections is generally straightforward. Intertrigo is managed by decreasing moisture in infected areas and by application of topical antifungal therapy. Nystatin cream, topical azoles (miconazole, clotrimazole), and amphotericin B cream are all effective when applied 2–3 times daily. Paronychia may be treated by keeping the area dry and with topical antifungal therapy. Onychomycosis requires several months of treatment with oral azoles, such as itraconazole, or terbenifine. Relapses may occur. Griseofulvin is not active against Candida..

CMC is treated with oral ketoconazole or fluconazole. Transfer factor, an immunomodulating factor composed of a cell-free leukocyte extract, was used in the past but has fallen out of favor because of lack of efficacy. Months to years of treatment are generally required.


Clinical Findings

  1. Signs and Symptoms.Candidainfections of the oral cavity are relatively common and may present in several forms. Any of the forms may be asymptomatic or may cause soreness and burning. The most common, acute pseudomembranous candidiasis, or oral thrush, presents with multiple white patches on the tongue, palate, and other areas of oral mucosa. These lesions may be easily removed by scraping with a tongue blade to reveal an erythematous, irritated mucosa (Box 73-1). In addition to oral thrush, oral Candida infection occurs in several distinct forms. Acute atrophic candidiasis causes erythematous mucosa found typically on the palate and tongue, chronic atrophic candidiasis results in erythema and edema of the mucosa of denture wearers who do not practice adequate hygiene, and angular cheilitis causes erythema and fissuring of the corners of the mouth. Finally, Candida leukoplakia is described as adherent white nodules on an erythematous base and often does not respond to topical therapy. This condition also carries an increased risk of malignant transformation.
  2. Laboratory Findings.Budding yeast and hyphae may be seen on a KOH preparation or on preparations made with para-aminosalicyclic acid (PAS) stain, Giemsa stain, or Gram stain. Culture of oral scrapings may grow Candidaspecies, although this is not a specific test.
  3. Differential Diagnosis.Oral candidiasis must be differentiated from bacterial and viral infection as well as malignancy.
  4. Complications.While uncomfortable for those affected, it is unclear if oral candidiasis predisposes to Candidainfection at other sites. There are reports that Candida esophagitis may follow oral thrush, although esophagitis was not excluded at the initial presentation in these reports. In those with oral infection and infection at a second site, it is likely that immune system deficits allow for multiple infections rather than spreading from the oral cavity.

BOX 73-1 Dermatologic and Mucosal Candidiasis





GI (Nonesophageal)


More Common

· Erythematous, macerated skin with scalloped border and satellite lesions

· Typically in warm, moist areas (groin, under breasts)

· Paronychia

· Onychomycosis

· Multiple white patches on tongue, palate, and pharnx that are easily removed with tongue blade, leaving erythematous mucosa

· Asymptomatic

· Dysphagia

· Odynophagia

· Epigastric pain

· Nausea and vomiting

· Hematemesis

· Concurrent oral thrush

· Infection in benign ulcers

· Ulceration and pseudomembrane formation within small and large intestine

· Vulvar pruritus

· Vaginal discharge (may range from thin and white to thick and curdlike)

· Odorless or mild odor

· Vulvar burning

· Dyspareunia

· Exam revealing white plaques on erythematous mucosa

Less Common

· Generalized cutaneous eruption

· Single or multiple 5–10-mm papules1

· Candida granulomas2

· Erythematous mucosa on palate and tongue without white plaques

· Erythema and edema of mucosa of denture wearers

· Adherent white plaques (not removable with tongue blade) on erythematous base

· Stricture

· Perforation

· Diffuse involvement of stomach similar to thrush

· Deep ulceration

· Hemorrhage

· Perforation


1Part of disseminated candidiasis
2Typically seen as part of chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis


The diagnosis of oral Candida infection may be suspected when the characteristic appearance of the mucosa is present and, in the case of oral thrush, when scraping of the mucosa removes the white plaque and leaves an inflamed mucosa. Demonstration of dimorphic fungi on KOH-, Giemsa-, Gram-, or PAS-stained oral scrapings strongly supports the diagnosis. Culture of Candida species from oral scrapings is not generally required, and as Candida may be part of the normal flora of the oral cavity, positive cultures may not represent true infection.

BOX 73-2 Deep-Tissue Candida Infection


Urinary Tract

Candidemia and Disseminated Candidiasis


More Common

· Asymptomatic

· Patient with risk factors1

· Patient with risk factors2

· Presentation ranges from asymptomatic to septic shock

· Positive blood cultures

· Microabscesses involving multiple organs

· Patient with risk factors3

· Fever, malaise, weight loss

· Embolic phenomena

Less Common

· Dysuria, frequency, urgency

· Pyuria

· Involvement of ureters or renal parenchyma

· Negative blood cultures (does not exclude disseminated disease)

· Valve perforation

· Congestive heart failure (CHF)

· Myocarditis

1Indwelling bladder catheter, diabetes mellitus, systemic antibiotic use.
2Malignancy, neutropenia, organ transplantation, GI surgery, burns, intravascular catheters, broadspectrum antibiotics.
3Valvular surgery, IV drug use, bacterial endocarditis, IV catheters, chemotherapy.


Generally, oral Candida infection should initially be treated with topical agents (Box 73-3). Nystatin suspension or clotrimazole troches are generally effective therapy. If infection occurs in a denture wearer, the dentures must be removed. Once the infection is cured, proper dental hygiene is important to prevent recurrence. Topical antifungal creams will treat angular cheilitis.

If topical therapy fails, or in those with severe infection, systemic therapy may be used. In patients with advanced HIV infection, itraconazole doses may require adjustment because of achlorhydria and impaired absorption. Treatment failure should prompt a search for other causes, such as bacterial infection or malignancy.

In those infected with HIV or with other immune deficits, frequent recurrences are common, and maintenance therapy may be necessary. Daily treatment with topical antifungal agents or fluconazole, 50–100 mg daily, every other day, or once weekly may prevent recurrence. Maintenance therapy with fluconazole should be avoided if possible because of concerns for the emergence of resistant fungal strains.


BOX 73-3 Treatment of Oral Candidiasis


· Nystatin suspension (100, 000 U/mL), 4–6 mL four times per day × 7–10 d

· Clotrimazole troches (10 mg), 4–5 times/d × 7–10 d

· Dentures must be removed and properly cleaned daily


· Fluconazole, 100 mg PO every day × 10–14 d

· Itraconazole, 200 mg PO every day × 10–14 d1

1Dose of itraconazole may need to be increased in patients with HIV infection secondary to achlorhydria and decreased absorption.


Clinical Findings

  1. Signs and Symptoms.Candidainfection of the esophagus can present with a range of clinical findings (Box 73-1). Between 20 and 50% of patients may be asymptomatic. Others will note dysphagia, odynophagia, epigastric pain, nausea and vomiting, or hematemesis. Fever may be present. Frequently, patients will have concurrent symptoms of oral thrush. Physical exam of patients with esophagitis yields few clues to its diagnosis. Oral thrush is seen in the majority.
  2. Imaging.Barium studies and endoscopy are both useful for diagnosis of Candidaesophagitis. The findings found with these methods are described in the diagnosis section.
  3. Differential Diagnosis.Candidaesophagitis may be confused with other causes of esophagitis, including bacterial, viral, and reflux esophagitis. Host factors (such as the status of the immune system), clinical findings, and endoscopic appearance of the esophagus are helpful in making this distinction, although frequently more than one cause of esophagitis are present concurrently.
  4. Complications.Complications of esophagitis relate to deep invasion and inflammation of the mucosa. Although uncommon, perforation and strictures do occur. In some cases, long and complex strictures are not amenable to endoscopic dilatation and require surgical intervention. Dissemination of the fungus from the lower esophagus and stomach may occur, especially in neutropenic patients.


Radiographic techniques using barium contrast (barium swallow) and endoscopy are useful for diagnosis of Candida esophagitis. The barium swallow has a characteristic appearance, with a shaggy-appearing mucosa and sometimes nodules and cobble stoning. This technique does not allow firm diagnosis, which requires histology or culture.

Endoscopy is the preferred method of diagnosis, as it allows direct visualization of the mucosa and biopsy of affected areas. The mucosa typically has adherent white plaques that may be removed with the endoscope to reveal an erythematous mucosa. Brushings of the mucosa may be prepared as for oral disease. Histologic specimens reveal fungal elements, which are more apparent on PAS-stained and silver-stained material than with hematoxylin-eosin staining.


A subset of patients may be treated empirically. In those with HIV infection, oral thrush, and mild to moderate symptoms of esophagitis, treatment with topical agents or an azole may be warranted. If no oral thrush is present, or if treatment fails, endoscopy should be performed to exclude other causes of disease.

As with oral thrush, topical agents may be successful in treating esophagitis (Box 73-4). If patients fail topical treatment, have severe disease, or are considered to be at high risk for disseminated disease, systemic therapy should be used. Therapy for 10 days is generally adequate.


Clinical Findings

  1. Signs and Symptoms.Risk factors for Candidainfection of the vagina include pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, diabetes mellitus, HIV infection, and antimicrobial therapy, although the majority of infections occur in the absence of these risks. Typical complaints are vulvar pruritus and vaginal discharge (Box 73-1), although a wide range of symptoms exists. Pruritus, the most common complaint, is often intense, and the discharge, classically described as cottage cheese–like, may range from a thin, white, scant discharge to homogeneously thick. Odor, if present, is mild. Other symptoms may include vulvar burning, external dysuria, vaginal irritation and soreness, and dyspareunia. Symptoms may peak the week prior to menses and wane with the onset of menstrual flow.

Examination may reveal discrete papular or pustular lesions of the vulva, with erythema and swelling of the vulva and labia. The discharge is present within the vaginal vault, and the vaginal mucosa is inflamed and may have adherent white plaques similar to oral thrush. The cervix appears normal.

  1. Laboratory Findings.The vaginal pH is normal (<4.5). Examination of a saline or wet mount preparation of the vaginal discharge may show fungal elements and should not reveal abundant white cells. A KOH preparation is more sensitive in detecting the fungus, as other cellular debris is lysed. Both budding yeast and hyphae are typically present. Culture of the vagina will usually isolate Candida, although this must be interpreted cautiously, as Candidacan be part of the vaginal flora without causing disease.
  2. Differential Diagnosis.The signs and symptoms of Candidavulvovaginitis are relatively nonspecific, and therefore the presentation may be confused with bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and other sexually transmitted diseases. Two or more of these conditions may coexist.
  3. Complications.Some women may develop severe, recurrent infections despite removal of identified risk factors and antifungal therapy. Infection of the vagina is not associated with risk of deep tissue or bloodstream invasion.

BOX 73-4 Treatment of Candida Esophagitis


· Nystatin suspension (100, 000 units/mL) 10–30 mL 4–5 times daily

· Clotrimazole troches (10 mg) 5 times daily


· Fluconazole 50–200 mg PO every day × 10 days

· Itraconazole1 50–200 mg PO every day × 10 days

· Amphotericin B 0.3–0.6 mg/kg/day IV × 10 days

1Patients with HIV or an acid suppresive therapy may have poor absorption due to high gastric pH.


The diagnosis of vulvovaginitis is typically made by history, physical examination, and light microscopy. In women with appropriate symptoms and fungal elements on wet mount or KOH preparation, therapy is indicated without further testing. As up to 50% of symptomatic women with culture-proven infection have negative microscopy, vaginal culture is indicated in those patients with symptoms and no microscopic findings. A vaginal pH >4.5 or a large number of white cells on wet mount should prompt a search for a different or possibly coexistent process.


Numerous agents are available for treatment of Candida vulvovaginitis in both topical and oral preparations (Box 73-5). Among topical agents, cure rates range from 75 to 90%, with the azole preparations (clotrimazole, miconazole, terconazole) having slightly better efficacy than nystatin. The formulation (cream versus suppository versus vaginal tablet) does not alter the success rate; therefore the choice of formulation is a matter of patient preference. Currently there is a trend toward higher doses of topical agents with shorter durations of therapy, with success reported with even high-dose, one-time therapy. Anecdotal failure rates are fairly high with one-dose therapy; thus this is best reserved for women with infrequent infections and mild or moderate symptoms.

BOX 73-5 Treatment of Candida Vulvovaginitis1


· Butoconazole, 2% cream, 5 g every day ×3 d

· Clotrimazole, 1% cream, 5 g every day ×7–14 d

· Clotrimazole, vaginal tablet, 100 mg every day ×7 d

· Clotrimazole, vaginal tablet, 200 mg every day ×3 d

· Clotrimazole, vaginal tablet, 500 mg every day ×1 d

· Econazole, vaginal tablet, 150 mg every day ×3 d

· Fenticonazole, 2% cream, 5 g every day ×7 d

· Miconazole, 2% cream, 5 g every day ×7 d

· Miconazole, vaginal suppository, 100 mg every day ×7 d

· Miconazole, vaginal suppository, 200 mg every day ×3 d

· Miconazole, vaginal suppository, 1200 mg every day ×1 d

· Nystatin suppository, 100, 000 U every day ×14 d

· Terconazole, 0.4% cream, 5 g every day ×7 d

· Terconazole, 0.8% cream, 5 g every day ×3 d

· Terconazole, vaginal suppository, 80 mg every day ×3 d

· Tioconazole, 2% cream, 5 g every day ×3 d

· Tioconazole, 6.5% cream, 5 g every day ×1 d


· Fluconazole, 150 mg PO once

· Itraconazole, 400 mg PO once

1Women with recurrent infection and no reversible risk factors may require suppressive therapy.

Oral azole agents are quite effective for vaginal infection and are more convenient than topical therapy but are more expensive. Fluconazole and itraconazole single-dose therapy are at least as effective as topical therapy.

Cure of Candida vulvovaginitis during pregnancy can be difficult, with relapses frequently occurring. If therapy is extended to 1–2 weeks, topical antifungal therapy is effective. Oral azoles should be avoided during pregnancy.

In women with frequent recurrent infections, therapy is often disappointing, with symptoms recurring within weeks of withdrawal of antifungal agents. In these women, predisposing factors such as diabetes or HIV infection should be considered. HIV testing is appropriate in women with risk factors for HIV infection. If fasting blood glucose values are normal, further testing for diabetes is not required. Oral contraceptives should be discontinued if possible, although continuation of low-dose estrogen preparations, as long as long-term antifungal therapy is used, may be considered. Vaginal douching and treatment of the sexual partner are not recommended. Frequently, no risk factors are identified, and prophylactic therapy is required. The best-studied regimen with proven efficacy for prophylaxis is ketoconazole, 100 mg daily. Toxicity, such as hepatitis, is infrequent but may occur. Other regimens with anecdotal support include fluconazole, 100–200 mg once weekly, and clotrimazole vaginal tablets, 500 mg once weekly.


The presence of Candida spp. in the urine is common and does not necessarily represent infection. Candiduria is commonly associated with antibiotic use, indwelling urinary catheters, and diabetes mellitus and frequently resolves if predisposing factors can be corrected. Patients are generally asymptomatic, although some will have symptoms similar to bacterial cystitis, with dysuria, frequency, and urgency (Box 73-2). Urinalysis shows fungal elements and may reveal pyuria. At cystoscopy, the mucosa of the bladder typically has an inflamed appearance with adherent white plaques that may be removed with the scope.

Candida spp. may also cause urethritis, typically in male sexual partners of women with vaginal Candida infection, as well as higher urinary tract infection. The upper urinary tract and renal parenchyma may be infected from ascending infection or, more commonly, from hematogenous spread as part of a syndrome of disseminated candidiasis. With ascending infection, perinephric abscesses, papillary necrosis, fungus balls, and calyceal involvement have all been described. Risk factors are generally present and include diabetes mellitus, urinary tract obstruction, and renal stones. With hematogenous spread, the renal parenchyma becomes studded with multiple microabscesses.


Candiduria is usually discovered when a urine culture reveals the presence of Candida spp. The presence of pyuria generally indicates true infection if other etiologies, such as bacterial infection, have been excluded. Infection may also be diagnosed by demonstrating the presence of a typical appearing fungus in biopsy specimens obtained during cystoscopy.

Of particular importance for treatment is whether candiduria represents colonization or true infection, and whether the upper urinary tract is involved, a distinction that can be troublesome. Those with risk factors for ascending infection (diabetes, stones) and those at risk for disseminated disease are more likely to have upper urinary tract infection. Computerized tomographic scans or ultrasound may reveal microabscesses or fungus balls.


When treating Candida infection of the urinary tract, careful consideration must be given to whether candiduria represents colonization or true infection, and whether the upper urinary tract is involved. Asymptomatic candiduria usually does not require antifungal treatment, but indwelling catheters should be removed as soon as possible. (Treatment is summarized in Box 73-6.) In the presence of pyuria, diabetes mellitus, or renal transplantation, treatment is indicated. Oral fluconazole is recommended as the initial agent. Bladder irrigation with amphotericin B is also effective. Patients with candiduria should be treated prior to instrumentation of the urinary tract.

In patients with evidence of systemic toxicity, Candida infection at other sites, risk factors for ascending infection (structural or metabolic abnormality of the urinary tract such as stones or diabetes), or risk factors for disseminated candidiasis (burns, neutropenia, or GI surgery), consideration must be given to the possibility of upper urinary tract infection or disseminated candidiasis. Upper urinary tract involvement usually will respond to oral fluconazole, although intravenous amphotericin B is required for infections resistant to fluconazole or unresponsive to initial fluconazole treatment. Fungus balls and large perinephric abscesses may require surgical intervention. Treatment of disseminated candidiasis is discussed next.


Candidemia may present in a variety of fashions, ranging from asymptomatic to fulminant sepsis. The candidemic patient generally has risk factors for infection, such as malignancy, chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, organ transplantation, GI surgery, burns, indwelling catheters, or exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Disseminated candidiasis must be assumed to be present in those with positive blood cultures, although negative cultures do not preclude the possibility of disseminated disease. Dissemination usually manifests with many microabscesses involving multiple organs, especially the liver, spleen, and eye, but almost any organ may be involved (Box 73-2).

BOX 73-6 Treatment of Urinary Tract Candidiasis

Asymptomatic Candiduria

· Remove prosthetic material (e.g., urinary catheters)

· No antibiotic therapy required unless patient is diabetic, nuetropenic, transplant recipient, has anatomic abnormality of GU tract, or is undergoing GU procedure

· Fluconazole 200 mg PO on first day, then 100 mg PO every day × 4 days

· Amphotericin bladder irrigation 1

Upper Urinary Tract Infection

· Fluconazole 400–800 mg PO/IV every day2

· Amphotericin B 0.8–1.0 mg/kg/day IV2

· Remove bladder catheters if possible

· Fungus balls or large perinephric abscesses may require surgery

· Rule out disseminated Candidiasis

1Amphotericin 50 mg in 1 liter sterile water infused at 40 mL/hour through continuous infusion/drainage system.
2Treatment continued until clinical improvement, definite resolution of parenchymal involvement, and for 14 days after any positive blood cultures.


Candidemia is diagnosed by recovering Candida species in blood culture. Candidemia may be isolated or may occur in the setting of disseminated candidiasis. The possibility of disseminated candidiasis should be considered in any patient with deep Candida infection, multiple sites of infection, or positive blood cultures. Disseminated candidiasis is diagnosed by tissue culture of biopsy material or demonstration of Candida in histologic specimens. At present, serology is available but has false-negative and false-positive rates too high to be of use clinically.


The treatment of candidemia is the subject of much debate and controversy. Because isolation of Candida from the blood carries a high morbidity and because there is currently no method to predict which patients will not require treatment, there is agreement that all patients with candidemia should be treated. The standard treatment in the past has been amphotericin B, with or without 5-FC. Currently, fluconazole appears to be a reasonable alternative, although there are limited data comparing mortality of fluconazole-treated patients versus those treated with amphotericin. One randomized study of candidemic patients demonstrated fluconazole to be equally efficacious but associated with less toxicity when compared with amphotericin.

Fluconazole may be used as initial treatment of candidemia in a stable patient (Box 73-7). If patients had been treated with fluconazole for 2 days or greater at the time of candidemia, deteriorate on fluconazole therapy, or are unstable (hypotension, need for mechanical ventilation, multiple comorbid factors, etc.) at the time their candidemia is diagnosed, then treatment with amphotericin is warranted. Smaller doses may be used if amphotericin if chosen as the initial regimen for stable patients. Because of the potential bone marrow toxicity of 5-FC, particularly when combined with amphotericin, the dose of 5-FC is generally reduced when part of the treatment regimen. Treatment is generally continued until clinical improvement is seen and for 2 weeks after the last positive blood culture.

BOX 73-7 Treatment of Candidemia and Disseminated Candidiasis1




First Choice

· Fluconazole, 400–800 mg PO/IV every day2

· Remove intravascular catheters if possible

· Monitor for evidence of end-organ infection

· Fluconazole, 6 mg/kg twice per day

· Remove intravascular catheters if possible

· Monitor for evidence of end-organ infection

Alternative 3

· Amphotericin B, 0.8–1.0 mg/kg/d4IV with or without 5-FC, 100 mg/kg/d IV

· Amphotericin B, 0.8–1.0 mg/kg/d IV with or without 5-FC (5-FC adjusted to achieve peak level of 40–60 µg/mL)

1Treatment is continued until clinical improvement, definite resolution of parenchymal involvement, and for 14 days after the last positive blood culture.
2Fluconazole, 400 mg daily, is preferred as initial dosage in stable patients.
3Preferred in patient on fluconazole for > 2 days at time of positive blood culture, worsening on fluconazole therapy, unstable (eg, hypotension, mechanical ventilation, etc.), or infection with C. krusei.
4Amphotericin, 0.5–0.7 mg/kg/d IV, may be used as initial dose in stable patient.

For all patients with candidemia, the possibility of disseminated infection must be considered. If infection with C krusei is suspected or documented, fluconazole should not be used as initial therapy because this species has a high level of resistance to fluconazole. C glabrata has an intermediate level of resistance, and fluconazole therapy may be used with caution. Clinical deterioration should prompt an early change of therapy to amphotericin. Treatment for disseminated disease should continue until there is definite resolution of parenchymal involvement and for 2 weeks after the last positive blood culture.

Intravenous catheters should be removed from candidemic patients if possible. In addition, all patients with candidemia should be followed clinically for at least 3 months, as deep infection caused by hematogenous spread may not manifest initially. Patients should be instructed to report any symptoms, which may represent late complications, such as fever, fatigue, jaundice, visual disturbances, abdominal pain, or bone pain.


Endocarditis caused by Candida species has been reported with increasing frequency, particularly after valvular surgery. Other predisposing factors include underlying valvular disease, concomitant bacterial endocarditis, intravenous drug use, intravenous catheters, and chemotherapy. Aortic and mitral valves are commonly infected. The symptoms are similar to that of bacterial endocarditis with fever, malaise, weight loss, and signs and symptoms of embolic phenomena. Splinter hemorrhages, Osler's nodes, Janeway lesions, hepatosplenomegaly, hematuria, proteinuria, and pyuria may all occur. Candida has the ability to cause large vegetations and large emboli, which may be catastrophic, and valvular lesions may progress to cause perforation, congestive heart failure, and myocarditis (Box 73-2).


Blood cultures are generally positive in Candida endocarditis, although negative cultures may occur in up to 25% of patients. Echocardiography reveals vegetations, which may become quite large. Transesophageal echocardiography is more sensitive for detection of vegetations than transthoracic echocardiography. The role of serologic tests (Candida antibodies) is uncertain, as both false positive and false negative results occur with some frequency.


Treatment of Candida endocarditis generally requires combined surgical and medical therapy. Once the diagnosis is established, therapy with amphotericin B should be initiated and the valve replaced as soon as possible (Box 73-8). Antifungal therapy is generally required for a total of 6–10 weeks, and patients should be monitored for a minimum of 2 years after completion of therapy because of the high risk of relapse. For those in whom surgical treatment is not possible, such as those too ill to survive an operation, there exist case reports of treatment success with medical therapy alone (amphotericin B followed by fluconazole).


Candida species may infect any mucosal surface of the GI tract. After esophageal candidiasis, infection of the stomach is most common. Typically, the organism is seen infecting benign ulcers, although a diffuse mucosal form of infection resembling thrush has been described. In the small and large bowel, ulceration and pseudomembrane formation are common. Mucosal GI involvement may cause deep ulcerations with resulting hemorrhage or perforation (Box 73-1).

Candida may also infect the peritoneum, liver, spleen, gallbladder, or pancreas. Peritoneal infection is associated with peritoneal dialysis, GI surgery, and GI perforation. Dissemination beyond the abdomen is uncommon. Involvement of the liver, spleen, and pancreas occurs most commonly in immunocompromised hosts, particularly with chemotherapy-induced neutropenia. Often, other manifestations of disseminated candidiasis are present. Fungus balls may form in the gallbladder and biliary tree and cause obstruction. Abscesses may involve the liver and spleen.


Involvement of nonesophageal mucosal involvement of the GI tract is generally diagnosed by characteristic appearance during endoscopy and by demonstration of Candida by histology or culture of biopsy specimens. Involvement of the peritoneum, liver, spleen, gallbladder, and pancreas may be difficult to diagnose. Fluid returned after peritoneal dialysis may grow Candida in culture. Computer tomography or magnetic resonance imaging may reveal splenic or hepatic abscesses. Laparoscopy may be required for definitive diagnosis.

BOX 73-8 Treatment of Candida Endocarditis

· Surgical replacement of valve

· Amphotericin B 0.8–1.0 mg/kg/day IV every day, continued for 6–10 weeks after operation


Fluconazole is recommended for initial therapy of mucosal involvement in the stomach, small intestine, or colon (Box 73-9). Amphotericin B may also be used. Candida peritonitis may also be treated with fluconazole alone or amphotericin B followed by fluconazole. Peritoneal dialysis catheters should be removed if possible. For patients with a perforated viscus, prophylactic therapy is not indicated and should be reserved for those patients with intraoperative findings consistent with Candida infection and positive peritoneal cultures.

Involvement of the liver, spleen, gallbladder, or pancreas should be treated with fluconazole or amphotericin followed by fluconazole. Dosages and duration of therapy are the same as for candidemia and disseminated disease. Large abscesses and fungus balls may require drainage or surgical removal.


Candida species are capable of causing many other infectious syndromes, which will be mentioned briefly. Infection of the respiratory tract may result in bronchopneumonia or diffuse nodular infiltrates. Within the central nervous system (CNS), Candida spp. may cause meningitis and parenchymal abscesses, usually as part of a disseminated infection. Candida spp. have been described as the etiologic agents for osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, myositis, and chostochondritis. Ocular infection may involve any structure within the eye and is common following hematogenous dissemination.

BOX 73-9 Treatment of Non-esophageal GI Candidiasis

Mucosal 1

· Fluconazole 50–200 mg PO/IV every day ×10 days

· Amphotericin B 0.3–0.6 mg/kg/day IV ×10 days

Liver, Spleen, Gallbladder, Peritoneum

· Fluconazole 400–800 mg PO/IV every day2

· Amphotericin B 0.8–1.0 mg/kg/day IV3

1Stomach, small intestine, large intestine.
2Treatment continued until clinical improvement, definite resolution of parenchymal involvement, and for 14 days after any positive blood cultures.
3Treatment continued as for fluconazole; may change to fluconazole after initial therapy with amphotericin if clinically improved.


The diagnosis of Candida infection of the lung, CNS, musculoskeletal system, or eye generally requires demonstration of the organism by tissue culture or on histologic examination. However, visualization of the typical well-demarcated white retinal or vitreal lesion by funduscopic examination in the setting of positive blood cultures is adequate for the diagnosis of Candida endophthalmitis. It should be noted that sputum culture is generally not sufficient for diagnosis of respiratory involvement, particularly in an intubated patient, as the organism may only be colonizing the respiratory tract.


Amphotericin B has been the standard treatment for Candida infection in the CNS, eye, lung, and musculoskeletal system. Prosthetic material or other foreign bodies should be removed, if possible. The role of 5-FC is not clear, but it may be added to amphotericin. There is growing support for the use of the azole class, particularly fluconazole, as treatment for deep Candida infection. While case reports of success with fluconazole exist, there are very limited data regarding fluconazole in these settings and virtually no data comparing fluconazole with amphotericin.

Prevention & Control of Candida Infections

Candida species are ubiquitous; thus prevention of disease is best accomplished by elimination of risk factors as opposed to elimination of the organism (Box 73-10). Antibiotic therapy should be focused to treat specific organisms whenever possible. Indwelling vascular and bladder catheters should be removed as early as possible. In the hospital environment, health care professionals should practice good hand washing to minimize introduction of Candida infection to patients at risk.

BOX 73-10 Prevention & Control of Candidiasis

Prophylactic Measures

· Candida ubiquitous, therefore cannot eliminate organism

· Eliminate risk factors if possible (indwelling catheters, Total parenteral nutrition [TPN], etc.)

· Good hygiene among health care workers to eliminate spread to those at risk

· Prophylactic therapy generally not indicated; concern for creation of resistant organisms

Isolation Precautions

· Generally not required

The role of prophylactic therapy is unclear but generally not supported. Prophylactic therapy has been shown to reduce mortality in bone marrow transplant patients but not in any other setting. Prophylactic therapy for candidemia may be warranted in patients' with negative blood cultures who have multiple risk factors for infection and have isolation of Candida from multiple sites but is generally discouraged because of concern for creating resistant organisms. Empiric therapy may also be employed in certain settings, such as neutropenic patients who remain persistently febrile for 7–14 days despite broad spectrum antibiotics and exclusion of other possible causes of infection or in patients with two or more risk factors for invasive Candida infection and isolation of Candida from sputum or urine. Fluconazole is the preferred agent in these settings.


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