What is Candida albicans?
Candida albicans is probably the best known member of the group of facultative pathogenic fungi. Candida is a polymorphic fungus. This means that he can train different growth forms. This property plays an important role in the pathology. Due to its adaptability Candida albicans can prove in some cases to be extremely resistant to treatment.
Normally, the individual fungal cells are round and have a diameter between 4 and 10 microns. Candida albicans can also form pseudomycetes and hyphae. Hyphae are an indication of invasive colonization. This form of candidia usually affects only immunosuppressed persons, ie people with a reduced immune system, such as cancer patients or HIV patients.
Occurrence, distribution & characteristics
Candida albicans is a fungus that is ubiquitous. He gets into the human body through the daily food. For example, the pathogen is found in vegetables, meat and fruit. In particular ready-made raw salads are often highly contaminated with Candida albicans.
Studies show that the fungus can survive on objects outside the human body at a humidity of between 30 and 50 percent for at least a month. Only after half a year, as a rule, no cells capable of reproduction are detectable. At a humidity of 100 percent, however, the fungi survive up to one year.
Normally Candida albicans belongs to the transient intestinal flora. This means that the fungi get into the intestine through the food, but do not get stuck there. The local healthy intestinal flora, which includes Escherichia coli, Lactobacilli and Bacteroides, prevents the fungus from spreading in the intestine.
It becomes problematic if the intestinal flora is impaired, for example because of previous antibiotic treatment. A disturbed intestinal flora offers Candida albicans the opportunity to settle in the intestine. But the fungi adhere to the intestinal mucosa. For example, if they are threatened by antifungal agents, they can change their shape and temporarily migrate into the intestinal mucosa. That is why some Candida species are already resistant to the antifungal nystatin.
Researchers have now discovered that the toothbrush is a major source of reinfection. Individuals suffering from Candida albicans should therefore change their toothbrush after therapy. Otherwise, they could get infected directly while brushing their teeth.
The sexual transmission should not be underestimated. Many women suffer from recurring vaginal infections. Mostly these infections are caused by taking antibiotics or cortisone. These affect the vaginal flora and allow the fungi to spread. But also a sexual transmission is possible. Men can have a genital infection with Candida albicans without symptoms. During sexual intercourse without a condom, the yeasts are then transmitted. A treatment of the woman is then ineffective, since the renewed sexual intercourse more fungal colonies enter the vagina. This effect must be considered in the treatment of recurrent genital fungi.
Diseases & complaints
A colonization of the intestine by Candida albicans can go completely unnoticed. Some researchers even believe that low colonization with Candida albicans is not pathological but physiological. However, if the yeasts in the intestine proliferate, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and other digestive disorders can occur.
Candida albicans prefers to use carbohydrates. In the metabolism of carbohydrates by the fungus produced alcohols. Among them are also fusel alcohols. These pass through the intestinal mucosa into the bloodstream and via the portal vein to the liver. The liver has to break down the alcohols. With a strong colonization it can come thereby to a clear load of the liver.
Candida albicans can not only affect the intestine. The preferred sites of infection of the yeast include the oral cavity, the oral mucosa under dentures, the genital mucosa, the conjunctiva in the eye and the nail folds. Moist skin folds also provide the fungus with optimum growth conditions. On the mucous membranes, a whitish, wipeable coating becomes visible in Candida. On the skin, the infection is characterized by a strong redness with itching.
In women, the fungus likes to manifest in the vaginal area. A typical symptom of vaginal yeast infection is white, crumbling vaginal discharge. In contrast to the outflow in case of a bacterial infection, the outflow does not smell in Candida infestation. He is, however, associated with an itching in the vulva. In severe cases, erosions can develop that spread through the vulva to the inner thighs. Genital fungal infections in men are also referred to as balanitis. Here the glans is affected by the fungal attack. It is inflamed, reddened and secretes purulent secretions.
When the immune system is severely weakened, infection with Candida albicans can spread to the heart, stomach, liver, lungs, spleen, and central nervous system (CNS). Around 14 percent of all intensive care patients are affected by a generalized infection with Candida albicans. Old people are more affected than young people. Systemic candidias, which are extremely severe cases, are more than 70 percent deadly. Particularly feared is the so-called Candida sepsis. There are large quantities of the pathogen in the blood. Candida albicans is now number 4 in the most dangerous pathogens in hospital infections.