Candida albicans

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Candida albicans is one of the most common causes of opportunistic mycoses. Candida is a catalase-positive, dimorphic fungus that can exhibit pseudohyphae and budding yeast. When tested in a laboratory setting, Candida can produce germ tubes when incubated in serum at 37¡C.

Candida can lead to both cutaneous and systemic infections. Populations particularly vulnerable include the neutropenic, diabetic, and those with HIV or AIDS. Clinical manifestations of Candida infections can range from oral candidiasis and candidal esophagitis (which can be an AIDS-defining illness often observed when CD4 counts decline below 200) to candidal vulvovaginitis. Additionally, Candida can cause diaper rash in infants. Candidal endocarditis, though rare, can be observed, especially in intravenous drug users and may affect the heart valves. For treatment, many Candida-related infections are managed using azoles for milder infections. For more severe or disseminated infections, amphotericin B is typically used. Oral or esophageal candidiasis can often be treated with the topical antifungal nystatin. For certain disseminated infections, especially those caused by resistant strains of Candida, caspofungin can be used.

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What is Candida albicans and how does it contribute to systemic fungal infections?

Candida albicans is a type of fungi found in small amounts in the human body. Typically, it does not cause problems unless the immune system becomes compromised or an imbalance occurs in the normal flora, both of which provide opportunities for the fungi to grow excessively. This overgrowth can lead to systemic fungal infections, affecting different parts of the body from the blood to the brain, particularly in immunocompromised individuals.

Why is Candida albicans referred to as an opportunistic mycosis?

An opportunistic mycosis refers to a fungal infection that primarily occurs when a person's immune system is weakened. Candida albicans is a perfect example because it is present in our body without causing any harm under normal circumstances. However, when a person's immunity is lowered, such as with HIV/AIDS, cancer treatments, or organ transplantation, this fungus can become pathogenic, leading to illness.

What role does Candida albicans play in oral candidiasis, candidal esophagitis, vaginal candidiasis, and endocarditis?

Candida albicans is the most common cause of fungal infections in humans and can affect various body parts. Oral candidiasis (thrush) typically manifests in the mouth. Candidal esophagitis affects the esophagus, while vaginal candidiasis (yeast infection) occurs in the female genital area. Endocarditis, although rare, can occur when Candida enters the bloodstream and affects the heart valves.

How are infections caused by Candida albicans generally treated?

The choice of treatment for Candida albicans infections depends on the severity and location of the infection. Common antifungal agents used include nystatin for oral candidiasis, while caspofungin and amphotericin B are used for more severe, systemic infections. For vaginal candidiasis, topical or oral azoles are often used.