Deadly candidiasis must be addressed swiftly to help vulnerable patients

December 17, 2015

One of the most common causes of healthcare-associated infections, candidiasis is a serious, life-threatening fungal infection that needs to be treated early, aggressively and appropriately, note updated guidelines released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Updating guidelines released in 2009, the new guidelines underscore the importance of consulting an infectious diseases (ID) specialist to identify candidiasis quickly and ensure a good outcome, as well as recommend a shift from fluconazole to echinocandins for the initial treatment of invasive infections. Candida fungi can cause a wide variety of infections, including of the mouth, tongue, vagina and esophagus, but candidiasis most often is invasive, involving deep tissues. Among the most serious is blood-stream infection (candidemia), a significant problem for vulnerable hospitalized patients. As many as 47 percent of patients with candidemia die, according to some studies.

The updated guidelines recommend the medication switch because newer research shows that in invasive infections, echinocandins - which kill the fungus - are more effective than fluconazole - which prevents the fungus from growing. Another change is the recommendation of testing for antifungal susceptibility as resistance is a growing concern in candidiasis. The new guidelines also emphasize the benefits of the step-down approach, in which a patient may be started on intravenous (IV) antifungals (such as echinocandins) and then switched to oral medication (such as fluconazole).

"Virtually anything in the body can be infected with Candida, but infections of the blood stream, or seeded from the blood stream - heart, brain, eyes, kidneys, liver - are the ones we worry about the most," said Peter G. Pappas, MD, lead author of the study and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "These infections are a significant concern among hospitalized patients. In fact, patients who get candidemia are more likely to die than those whose bloodstream infections are caused by bacteria."

The guidelines note that intensive care unit physicians should suspect candidiasis in patients who are deteriorating without an obvious reason, have unexplained fever, have an elevated white blood cell count, have a central venous catheter or recently had abdominal surgery.

"There is no specific, rapid diagnostic test, and these infections can be difficult to diagnose and treat," said Carol A. Kauffman, MD, co-author of the guidelines, professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and chief of the Infectious Diseases Section of the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. "Consulting with an ID specialist - who has the expertise to make sense of all of the factors involved - is crucial."
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AT A GLANCE In addition to Drs. Pappas and Kauffman, the 12-member candidiasis guidelines panel includes: David R. Andes, Cornelius J. Clancy, Kieren A. Marr, Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, Annette C. Reboli, Mindy G. Schuster, Jose A. Vasquez, Thomas J. Walsh, Theoklis E. Zaoutis and Jack D. Sobel.

IDSA has published more than 50 treatment guidelines on various conditions and infections, ranging from HIV/AIDS to Clostridium difficile. As with other IDSA guidelines, the candidiasis guidelines will be available in a smartphone format and a pocket-sized quick-reference edition. The full guidelines are available free on the IDSA website at http://www.idsociety.org.

Clinical Infectious Diseases is a leading journal in the field of infectious disease with a broad international readership. The journal publishes articles on a variety of subjects of interest to practitioners and researchers. Topics range from clinical descriptions of infections, public health, microbiology, and immunology to the prevention of infection, the evaluation of current and novel treatments, and the promotion of optimal practices for diagnosis and treatment. The journal publishes original research, editorial commentaries, review articles, and practice guidelines and is among the most highly cited journals in the field of infectious diseases. Clinical Infectious Diseases is an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Arlington, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing nearly 10,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit http://www.idsociety.org. Follow IDSA on Facebook and Twitter.

Infectious Diseases Society of America

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