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What is Candida Albicans?

“There are many symptoms that one can develop from a small amount of causes”

Candida albicans is a single celled yeast-like fungus that is one of the most prolific organisms on the planet and impossible to keep out of your body. In a healthy person it does little harm but when overgrowth occurs there can be many problems.

Facts on Candida:

  • Candida albicans is part of the normal flora, inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract.
  • With breakdown of host defenses Candida albicans can produce disease ranging from superficial skin or mucous membrane infections to systemic involvement of multiple organs.
  • Most Candida albicans infections are caused by endogenous flora (yeast inside the body), except in cases of direct mucosal contact with lesions in others (e.g., through sexual intercourse).
  • Candida is normally present in small numbers in the oral cavity, lower gastrointestinal tract, and female genital tract. This colonization is aided by the ability of Candida albicans to adhere to mucosal cells.
  • The pathogenic potential of C. albicans is strongly associated with a shift from the yeast to the hyphal form of the yeast.
  • Candida albicans hyphae have the capacity to bind to a number of molecular structures found in human tissues – components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) such as fibronectin, collagen, and laminin. This binding is mediated by mannoprotein.
  • Hyphae are also able to produce an extracellular proteinase which digests epithelial cells. This proteinase probably facilitates invasion and may also play a role in adherence. A number of environments factors are known to trigger conversion to the hyphal form and invasion, but how they relate to human infection is still unclear.
  • Factors that allow Candida albicans to increase its relative proportion of the flora (antibacterial therapy), that compromise the general immune capacity of the host (leukopenia or corticosteroid therapy), or that interfere with T lymphocyte function (e.g., AIDS) are often associated with local and invasive infection.
  • The disruptions of the mucosa associated with chronic disease and their treatments (indwelling devices, cancer, chemotherapy) may enhance the invasion process by exposing Candida binding sites in the ECM.
  • Diabetes mellitus also predisposes to Candida albicans infection, possibly because of the known greater production of the surface adherence proteins in the presence of high glucose concentrations in the blood.
  • Superficial infections include thrush, vaginal candidiasis.
  • Skin infections occur primarily in moist areas.
  • Inflammatory patches similar to those in thrush may develop in esophagus with or without associated oral candidiasis. Painful swallowing and substernal chest pain are the most common symptoms. Extensive ulcerations, deformity, and occasionally perforation of the esophagus may ensue. In immunocompromised patients similar lesions may also develop in the stomach, together with deep ulcerative lesions of the small and large intestine.
  • Infection of the urinary tract may produce cystitis, pyelonephritis, abscesses, or other lesions in the kidney.
  • Candida infections of visceral organs with or without further dissemination to multiple organs have a particularly strong association with diabetes mellitus, immunologic compromise, or some other violation of normal defense mechanisms. The organs most commonly involved are the kidneys, brain, heart, and eye.