Bacteria and fungi reside in our body fulfilling their purpose in life! None can be unaware of the good bacteria in the human gut nor the discovery of Penicillin, the first of a series of antibiotics developed from fungi which benefitted the entire world. Fungi can live in the air, water, soil and plants and there are also some fungi that reside naturally in the human body including the yeast Candida. This is a type of fungus and Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by this yeast. There are more than 20 species of Candida yeasts that can infect humans and Candida albicans is the most common among them.
Candida typically resides in the mouth, intestinal tract and mucous membranes of the skin without causing infection. When these grow beyond what’s normal, Candidiasis strikes. The overgrowth of Candida depends on the healthy bacteria in the human body. More the number of these bacteria, lesser the chance of a fungal infection.
Candidiasis: Place of Origin Matters!
Candidiasis that develops in the throat or mouth is called “thrush” or oropharyngeal candidiasis, one that develops in the esophagus is called esophageal candidiasis or Candida esophagitis. Esophageal candidiasis is the most common infection occurring in people living with HIV/AIDS. Typical symptoms include:
Genital Yeast Infection
Candidiasis in the vagina is called as ‘vaginal yeast infection’ or by other names such as vaginal candidiasis, vulvovaginal candidiasis or candida vaginitis. Major symptoms include:
It is mostly pregnant women, those using contraceptive pills, those with a weakened immune system, having diabetes or those taking antibiotics who are commonly affected. Wearing a cotton underwear that prevents the chances of a yeast infection is suggested. There might also be situations where the Candida resides in the vagina but does not cause any infection. Treatment includes antifungal medications.
Unlike the other two mentioned above, invasive candidiasis is an extremely dangerous fungal infection that can affect the blood, heart, brain, eyes, bones and other parts of the body. Candidemia, a bloodstream infection, is common in hospitalized patients.
This is a newly emerging fungus that is becoming a serious health threat worldwide primarily due to its multidrug-resistant nature, failure to show positive results with standard laboratory tests and its vast outbreak in healthcare settings.
Candida auris has been causing severe illness in several countries worldwide, including India. The yeast has the capability to enter the patient’s bloodstream and spread all through the body causing serious invasive infections. This yeast is capable of causing bloodstream infections, wound infections and ear infections. Although strains of the species are extracted from urinary and respiratory specimen, there is no clarity if there is a chance of lung or bladder infection.
Blood culture or other body fluids can be used to diagnose this fungal infection but the diagnosis process is pretty hard as it can easily be confused with other types of yeast such as Candida haemulonii. While any hospitalized person is at a risk of this infection, the risk is even more higher in patients who use breathing tubes, feeding tubes or central venous catheters. Although echinocandins (antifungal drug) are prescribed as treatment forms, there are chances that the fungus can lead to fatality too.
Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.