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candidiasis

candidiasis kăn˝dĭdī´əsĭs [key], infection caused by fungi of the genus Candida; also called moniliasis after a former name of the genus. The most common forms of candidiasis, caused by C. albicans, are infections of the mucous membranes of the mouth (also known as thrush) and of the vagina and often the vulva (also known as yeast infection). The fungus C. albicans is a normal inhabitant of the mouth and vagina, and its growth is usually kept in check by certain bacteria that also live in these areas. When the balance of these organisms is disturbed by antibiotic treatment, by hormonal imbalances, or by a weakening of the body's resistance to disease (as occurs in AIDS), the fungus can begin to proliferate. Candidiasis of the penis (usually traceable to a female with the infection) is called balanitis. Candidal infections are most often treated topically with antifungal drugs such as clotrimazole, nystatin and miconazole, but oral or intravenous antifungal drugs are prescribed when the infection does not respond to topical treatments.

Invasive candidiasis, a more serious infection, occurs most commonly when Candida fungi invade the bloodstream. Hospital and nursing home patients, such as those with a central venous catheter, in an intensive care unit, with weakened immune system, or taking broad-spectrum antibiotics, are most likely to develop invasive candidiasis. Antifungal medications may be prescribed prophylactically to patients who are likely to develop invasive candidiasis. An invasive infection is typically treated by an echinocandin administered intravenously.

C. auris, another species that causes invasive candidiasis, typically infects the bloodstream, wounds, or the ear, and especially affects individuals with weakened immune systems. First identified in Japan in 2009, it is of concern because most forms of the fungus are drug resistant and some are multidrug resistant; additionally, infection can be difficult to identify from its primary symptoms of fever, aches, and fatigue. It has caused outbreaks in health-care facilities, where it can be difficult to eradicate.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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