If your child or a child close to you has been diagnosed with an invasive fungal infection, you can learn more about the disease here.
What is Candida and candidiasis? Candida is a fungus (specifically, a yeast) that is usually found on the body in very small amounts. But if Candida is allowed to overgrow, it can cause an infection. Candidiasis is the term for an infection caused by Candida. When the Candida infection is in the bloodstream, it is called candidemia.
Who is affected by Candida infections? There are both invasive and non-invasive forms of Candida infections. Invasive Candida infections are infections in the bloodstream or internal organs. They are most often found in immunocompromised (low immune system function) patients. Invasive Candida infections are the research focus of this group.
Examples of non-invasive Candida infections are vaginal yeast infection in women or thrush in newborns.
What causes an invasive Candida infection?
The cause of Candida infections often differ depending on whether a child is immunocompetent (normal immune system) or immunocompromised.
For patients who are immunocompetent, the most common cause is the disruption of the normal flora (bacteria that are supposed to live on your skin or inside you when you are healthy) after being on an antibiotic. Infection can also be common in patients who have diabetes mellitus or are using topical corticosteroids.
For patients who are immunocompromised, the patient is more likely to be infected with Candida in the bloodstream or a vital internal organ and be very sick. Central venous catheter (CVC) infections are also associated with Candida infections and increase the chance of developing these infections.
What are the symptoms of a Candida infection?
Bloodstream Candida infections or other invasive forms of Candida infections can present with fever, low blood pressure, and other signs of serious illness.
Infants who develop non-invasive Candida infections may have symptoms that include: painful white or yellow patches on the tongue, lips, gums, roof of the mouth, and/or inner cheeks. Candida can also make a diaper rash become worse, causing the skin to become more red, and in some cases, producing a red border.
How is a Candida infection diagnosed? If an invasive Candida infection is suspected, a child’s doctor may take cultures of his or her blood. These cultures are then grown in a laboratory which allows the doctor to determine the type and sensitivity of the yeast. By identifying the type and sensitivity of the yeast, the doctor will be able to select the most effective antifungal for treatment. An ultrasound or CT scan to detect Candida lesions in the brain, kidney, liver, or spleen may also be recommended. A doctor may take a scrape of Candida lesions from the inside of a child’s mouth, or wherever the infection is, and examine the cells under a microscope.
How is a Candida infection treated? Drugs called antifungals are used to treat Candida infections. If a child is diagnosed with an invasive Candida infection, his or her doctor will usually recommend an antifungal that can be administered through the vein (intravenously, by IV).
What is Aspergillus? Aspergillus is a fungus (specifically, a mold) that usually lives in the soil or compost piles. Aspergillus is important because it helps to recycle organic material that we all need to live.
Who is affected by Aspergillus infections? Aspergillus makes very small spores (kind of like very small marbles) that are able to float in the air. Usually, if someone inhales an Aspergillus spore, their immune system knows it is not supposed to be there and destroys it. But, sometimes Aspergillus spores are inhaled by people who have a weakened immune system or have a different medical condition that lets the spores grow inside the lungs. This is called invasive aspergillosis.
What causes a Aspergillus infection or aspergillosis? Factors that may make a child more likely to develop invasive aspergillosis include: corticosteroid and cytotoxic chemotherapy, immunodeficiency, advanced AIDS, bone marrow transplant, solid organ transplant, graft versus host disease, and graft reject.
What are the symptoms of aspergillosis? The signs and symptoms of invasive aspergillosis vary with the type of illness developed and may include fever and chills, a cough that brings up blood or mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath or joint pain, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, severe bleeding from the lungs, nosebleed, facial swelling on one side, and skin lesions.
How is aspergillosis diagnosed? A doctor may use many different tools to diagnosis an Aspergillus infection in a child. These can include a blood test, an X-ray or CT scan of the chest, a skin test to measure the sensitivity of Aspergillusin the case of allergic aspergillosis, a culture of tissue fluids, a bronchoscopy (where a flexible tube is passed into the lungs while a child is sedated), or a biopsy of a tissue mass.
How is an Aspergillus infection treated? To treat an Aspergillus infection, a doctor will typically prescribe antifungal medications for a child. If a child has an allergic form of aspergillosis, steroids and antifungals will be used in combination.
International Pediatric Fungal Network, Box 3499, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710. USA. Tel: 919-668-4847 Email:PFNContracts@duke.edu