There are about 150 known species of Candida, an ubiquitous yeast-like group of fungi that have true or false hyphae, thread-like strands of a fungus. It is said that this fungus exit in 80% of all humans; people continually acquire them from the food they eat, the places they go to (especially hospitals), at counter tops and floors.
Candida species are also common commensals of the skin and mucous membranes, usually found in the gastrointestinal tracts, genitourinary tracts and respiratory tracts. Commensals are microorganisms that typically exist in the human body without being harmful.
However, an abnormal outgrowth of the Candida fungi in the body can cause infection known as Candidiasis. This is a frequent among immunocompromised patients and those taking antibiotics that kill the good bacteria that control the growth of these fungi in the body.
Its ability to transform into hyphal form and it malignant factors such as the surface molecules that allow attachment of the organisms to other structures like the cells and prosthesis.
People who are critically ill when they developed the candidal infection are at high risk since the Candida fungi may invade the bloodstream and soon their tissues and organs.
Among the most pathogenic (capable of causing a disease) species of Candida are the Candida albicans. These fungi are present in about 50% to 60% of all the cases of Candidiasis. On healthy people, young and old alike, they normally exist on membranes lining the mouth, the throat, the intestines and the genitalia.
The next most pathogenic Candida fungi are the Candida glabarata, which account for 15% to 20% of all the cases of Candidiasis. Altogether, the two Candida species cause about 70-80% of all the cases of Invasive candidiasis, a condition in which the one or more organs have already been infected by the fungi.
The Candida glabrata has gradually become more medically significant due to the increasing cases of C. glabrata-caused Candidiasis, and its being less susceptible to antifungal antibiotics.
Next to Candida glabarata fungi in terms of medical significance are the Candida parapsilosis fungi. These account for ten to twenty percent of all the cases of Candidiasis. Next are the Candida tropicalis, causing 6 to 12 percent of all the cases of Candidiasis; Candida krusei, 1 to 3 percent; and the Candida kefyr, Candida guilliermondi, and Candida lusitaniae, which account for less than 5% of the total reported cases of Candidiasis. Candida dubliniensis are also identified to have caused infection among HIV positive patients.
Candida krusei and Candida lusitaniae are also becoming significant because they are essentially resistant to many antifungal drugs such as amphotericin B.
The occurrence of Candidiasis (caused by any of the Candida species) lead to newly identified clinical syndromes. Also, these fungi have created several new diseases that range from superficial skin infection to critical and fatal internal and systemic disorders.
Detecting invasive Candidiasis is hard for many physicians since majority of the blood tests do not show presence of Candid fungi. The infection is only manifested by a host of symptoms usually related to other illnesses.
Majority of those with invasive candidiasis are cancer patients, HIV positive and AIDS patients, neonates, drug addicts, persons who have undergone surgery or organ transplant, those who have been hospitalized for a long period of time, and those who are undergoing hemodialysis, the cleaning of wastes from the blood.