Candida and other yeasts normally found on the skin and in the gut sometimes cause infection; for example, “thrush” in normal babies, and vaginal yeast infections in normal women. However, given the right circumstances, Candida species can cause serious bloodstream infections, called candidemia.
Certain individuals are at increased risk of healthcare-associated candidemia. These include patients with weakened immune systems such as cancer patients and HIV-positive individuals, patients who require long-term bloodstream catheters called central venous catheters, and patients requiring complex medical care. People who use intravenous drugs are also at risk of candidemia.
Candida species are the fourth most common cause of healthcare-associated bloodstream infections in the U.S. Based on surveillance in the Portland metropolitan-area, there were 3.4 cases per 100,000 population during 2013. Ninety-eight percent of candidemia cases reported in the Portland metropolitan-area were hospitalized and 24% died.
Candidemia in healthcare settings can be prevented by hand-washing before and after touching central venous catheters, by placing and removing catheters only when necessary, and by appropriate use of antibitoics.