Pediatric Candidiasis 

Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Author: Sabah Kalyoussef, DO; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD 

Overview

Background

Candidal infections are extremely common (see the images below).

Typical appearance of thrush. Note multiple white Typical appearance of thrush. Note multiple white plaques on lips, gingivae, tongue, and palate.
Candidal diaper dermatitis. Note satellite papules Candidal diaper dermatitis. Note satellite papules and involvement of intertriginous folds.

Candida albicans is the most common cause of human candidal infections,[1] but other pathogenic species include Candida glabrata, Candida parapsilosis, Candida tropicalis, Candida krusei, Candida lusitaniae, and Candida stellatoidea.

Pathophysiology

Infections caused by Candida may affect numerous organ systems, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys, heart, and CNS.

Skin

The most common manifestation of candidal infection is diaper dermatitis in infants. Candida organisms can also cause intertrigo in older individuals. Intertrigo has a predilection for dark moist areas, such as the groin or fat folds. Predisposing conditions include diabetes mellitus, obesity, and hyperhidrosis.

Nails

A chronic paronychia may be caused by one of several Candida species. Candida organisms can also cause onychomycosis, including total nail dystrophy due to chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMCC), a rare T-cell disorder.

Mucous membranes

Thrush, or oral candidiasis, is also common in infants. Oral candidiasis may also be an adverse effect from using inhaled corticosteroids for asthma due to oral deposition. Patients who are immunocompromised may suffer from candidal esophagitis as well as thrush.

Genitals

Vaginal yeast infections affect nearly 75% of women. Male partners may develop balanitis or balanoposthitis. Individuals with chronic indwelling catheters are also predisposed to recurrent candidal infections.

Systemic

Candida organisms can cause severe systemic infections in immunocompromised patients, compared with benign cutaneous or localized infections in immunocompetent patients. Reports of systemic candidiasis are common in children with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and other immune deficiencies, as well as in very low birth weight premature infants. Risk factors for candidemia in critically ill children have been identified.[2, 3] Manifestations include fungemia, endophthalmitis, meningitis, renal or bladder bezoars, and arthritis.

Virulence factors

Numerous factors can contribute to the likelihood of candidal infections. An intact skin barrier is protective. Candidal infections are promoted in the face of lymphocyte dysfunction, as is observed in persons with AIDS and those with CMCC. Adherence of Candida organisms to oral and vaginal epithelium is believed to be promoted by biologic factors (eg, fibronectin in thromboses) and by iatrogenic factors (eg, presence of plastic catheters, disruption of normal bacterial flora). In neonates, risk factors include indwelling catheters, prolonged antibiotic use, necrotizing enterocolitis, previous bloodstream infections, total parenteral nutrition, and low birth weight.

Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis

CMCC is a heterogeneous group of disorders characterized by chronic candidal infections of the nails, skin, and mucous membranes. Most CMCC disorders are autosomal recessive and related to a mutation in the AIRE gene.[4] Lymphocyte numbers are normal; however, response to in vitro exposure to candidal antigen is absent.

Epidemiology

Frequency

United States

Thrush occurs in approximately 2-5% of healthy newborns and a slightly higher percentage of infants in the first year of life. Vaginal candidal infections occur in approximately 75% of women, and 40-50% of women experience recurrence. Approximately 2-5% of premature infants weighing less than 1500 g develop disseminated disease.[5]

Mortality/Morbidity

Candidal infections rarely cause significant morbidity in the healthy host. However, systemic disease may be found in as many as 15% of patients who are neutropenic. Mortality in low birth weight premature infants with systemic candidiasis may reach 50%. Candida is the second leading cause of sepsis in critical care patients.

Race

No racial predilection is noted.

Sex

Vaginal candidosis is a frequent problem among women and adolescent girls. No gender predilection is noted in other forms of candidiasis.

Age

In the healthy host, candidal infections are most common in the first year of life as thrush or diaper dermatitis. Vulvovaginitis is more common in adolescent and adult females.

 

Presentation

History

Thrush

Infants with thrush may experience pain, poor feeding, or fussiness.

Cutaneous candidiasis

Patients with cutaneous candidiasis experience itching, burning, and soreness.

Most commonly affected areas are the diaper area in infants and toddlers and abdominal fat folds and groin in older individuals.

Paronychia and onychomycosis

Candidal paronychia and nail disease has a predilection for the fingernails.

Paronychia is usually painful.

Vulvovaginitis

Most women with vulvovaginitis complain of a creamy vaginal discharge with soreness and burning.

Dyspareunia is often present.

Otitis externa

Otitis externa is found most commonly in tropical and subtropical climates.

Malnutrition and immunosuppression are risk factors.

Candidiasis is clinically difficult to distinguish from other causes of otitis externa.

GI candidiasis

GI candidiasis is primarily observed in individuals who are immunocompromised, especially in persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and/or primary immunodeficiency.

This may be a cause of chronic diarrhea.

Common in infants, glossitis may occur in older children following use of broad-spectrum antibiotics or may signal immunodeficiency.

Esophagitis should be suspected in individuals who are immunocompromised when oral candidiasis is present. Symptoms include dysphagia and odynophagia. Risk of esophagitis is elevated in children taking H2 blockers.

Pneumonia

This is extremely rare and usually results from disseminated disease.

Cystitis

Risk factors for cystitis include indwelling urinary catheters, immunosuppression, diabetes mellitus, and use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Endophthalmitis

Endophthalmitis is the most common intraocular infection in newborns.

Risk factors include low birth weight and prolonged hospitalization.

CNS infections

CNS infections usually present as subacute meningitis.

Risk factors include premature neonates with candidemia, AIDS, indwelling catheters (especially shunts), malnutrition, immunodeficiency, and organ transplantation.

Endocarditis

Risk factors for endocarditis include immunosuppression, HIV infection, intravenous catheters, corticosteroid use, prolonged hospitalization, and use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.

Hepatic (hepatosplenic) candidiasis

Risk factors include neutropenia.

Hepatic candidiasis may present with fever of unknown origin. It is usually a manifestation of disseminated candidiasis.

Hepatic candidiasis commonly occurs in oncology patients after a prolonged course of neutropenia. Symptoms develop with return of neutrophils.

Physical

Thrush

White plaques are observed in the mouth and may affect the lips, tongue, gums, and palate (see the image below).

Typical appearance of thrush. Note multiple white Typical appearance of thrush. Note multiple white plaques on lips, gingivae, tongue, and palate.

Scraping of the lesions may reveal erythema and bleeding at the base (see following image). The plaques do not scrape off easily.

Cutaneous candidiasis

Lesions consist of beefy-red plaques, often with scalloped borders.

Satellite papules and pustules may be observed surrounding the plaques.

Maceration is often present; especially in intertriginous areas (see following image).

Candidal diaper dermatitis (see the image below) is generally confluent in intertriginous areas, whereas generic diaper dermatitis may demonstrate sparing in the folds.

Candidal diaper dermatitis. Note satellite papules Candidal diaper dermatitis. Note satellite papules and involvement of intertriginous folds.

Paronychia and onychomycosis

Paronychia typically involves the cuticular fold of fingernails, causing redness, swelling, and pain.

Pus may be present.

Nail involvement usually stems from long-standing paronychia and causes a yellow discoloration of the nail, often with separation of the nail from the nail bed.

Genital candidiasis

With vulvovaginitis, a creamy white discharge is usually present. White plaques may be observed on an erythematous base of the vaginal mucosa or vulvar skin. Papules and pustules may be present.

With balanitis, lesions are usually observed on the glans penis and consist of erythematous plaques, pustules, or erosions.

GI disease

Glossitis is characterized by creamy or curdlike white plaques, which may be painful and bleed beneath when scraped.

With esophagitis, oral candidiasis may or may not be present. Weight loss is common.

Otitis externa

Tenderness of the pinna, aural discharge, and erythema characterize otitis externa.

Lymphadenopathy of postauricular or preauricular nodes may be present.

A grayish membrane may be present in the canal.

Hepatic candidiasis

This infection usually presents as abscesses in the liver and/or spleen.

Endocarditis

Endocarditis is characterized by fever and a new or changing heart murmur.

Symptoms relating to embolization to other organs (eg, CNS, kidneys, lungs, retina and choroid, skin) may be present.

Endophthalmitis

White well-circumscribed lesions of the retina and choroid in the posterior pole characterize endophthalmitis.

Isolation of candida from blood, urine, or other sources supports the diagnosis of endophthalmitis.

CNS infections

Signs consistent with meningitis are often present with CNS infections.

Evidence of candidal infection of other organ systems may be present.

Causes

Candidal infections have differing presentations in patients who are immunocompetent versus persons who are immunocompromised.

Patient who is immunocompetent

Although candidal diaper rash is common in healthy infants, predisposing factors causing candidal infections in older individuals are often present.

The most common factor is the disruption of normal flora following a course of antibiotic therapy, which is most commonly observed as cutaneous candidiasis or vulvovaginitis.

Other risk factors for candidal infection relate to impaired immune function, including individuals with diabetes mellitus, premature infants, hosts who are immunocompromised, and persons using systemic or topical corticosteroids.

Other risk factors include obesity, heat, and excessive sweating.

Patient who is immunocompromised

Individuals who are immunocompromised, including AIDS, are more susceptible to oral and cutaneous candidiasis and often have a more severe course.

Oral candidiasis may appear as acute or chronic atrophic candidiasis, which causes painful red erosions of the tongue and mucous membranes.

Candida species are frequent causes of central venous catheter infections.

Immunosuppression may also cause systemic candidiasis, which may present as fungemia or funguria. Candida species may cause fungal bezoars in the kidney or bladder, or candidiasis may cause abscesses in the liver or spleen. Candidal meningitis, arthritis, and endophthalmitis all have been reported.

Neonates

Neonates with very low birth weight are at a higher risk of developing candidemia.

Risk factors include low birth weight, broad spectrum antibiotic use, total parental nutrition, previous bloodstream infections, or necrotizing enterocolitis.

Chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMCC)

CMCC is a cluster of disorders of cell-mediated immunity that presents as chronic severe candidal infections of the skin and mucous membranes.

 

DDx

 

Workup

Laboratory Studies

The following studies are indicated in candidiasis:

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) slide preparation

Scrapings of oral or cutaneous lesions may demonstrate budding yeasts with pseudohyphae.

Cultures

Blood culture is highly insensitive but still recommended; fewer than 15% of patients with disseminated disease have positive blood cultures.

Urine culture is often positive in individuals who are immunocompromised and have renal or bladder disease.

Culture intravascular devices, especially indwelling catheters and especially in neonates suspected of having sepsis.

Beta-glucan assay

Component of fungal cell wall

D-arabinatol assay

Measures fungal metabolite

Imaging Studies

Ultrasonography and CT scanning may be helpful in making the diagnosis of disseminated candidal infection in the individual who is immunocompromised, especially for renal, bladder, hepatic, and splenic lesions.

Endoscopy may be indicated for diagnosis of candidal esophagitis, especially when empiric treatment has failed.

Procedures

Lumbar puncture is indicated for patients suspected of having candidal meningitis. Findings may include the following:

  • Elevated opening pressure

  • Increased WBC count, often with predominance of lymphocytes

  • Hyphae, which may be observed on Gram stain

 

Treatment

Medical Care

Treatment of candidal infections is primarily accomplished with appropriate antifungal drugs. Mild to moderate infection is initially empirically treated with fluconazole while severe infection is treated with a combination of fluconazole plus liposomal amphotericin B.[6]

Today, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in most centers are routinely starting fluconazole prophylaxis in very low birth weight neonates and those with other risk factors to prevent invasive candidiasis.[7, 8, 9, 10]

A study compared the safety and efficacy outcomes of micafungin between prematurely and non-prematurely born infants < 2 years of age. The study concluded that micafungin has a safe profile in premature and non-premature infants with substantial efficacy.[11]

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) updated their guidelines for managing Candida infections by recommending first-line treatment for candidemia with an echinocandin ( such as caspofungin, micafungin, or anidulafungin), rather than fluconazole, as echinocandins kill, rather than inhibit, these pathogens.[12, 13]

Surgical Care

Remove the offending catheter in central venous catheter infection because attempts to treat the infection without its removal are largely unsuccessful and are accompanied by high morbidity and mortality.

Consultations

Consult an infectious disease specialist for patients suspected of having systemic candidal infections, especially in the host who is immunocompromised, and consult an ophthalmologist for suspected endophthalmitis in neonates.

Diet

No specific diet is required.

Activity

No restrictions are required.

Prevention

As invasive candidiasis is a cause of sepsis in premature infants, a review of randomized, placebo-controlled trials evaluated fluconazole prophylaxis in premature infants. The study reported that fluconazole prophylaxis reduced the odds of invasive candidiasis and death (odds ratios of 0.48 [95% CI, .30-.78]), invasive candidiasis (0.20 [95% CI, .08-.51]) and Candida colonization (0.28 [95% CI, .18-.41]) compared to the placebo.[14]

 

Medication

Medication Summary

Candidal infections are sensitive to a broad range of antifungal agents. Nystatin and one of the imidazoles are the most commonly used agents for oral or cutaneous candidiasis. Noting the resistance pattern in your area is important; fluconazole-resistant Candida has been reported. New antifungals include the echinocandins (eg, caspofungin, micafungin) with pediatric dosing approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Another echinocandin, anidulafungin (Eraxis), is also approved, but does not have FDA-approved dosing for children. The mechanism of action of this group is to interfere with the cell wall integrity inhibiting 1,3 beta-D-glucan synthase. Many echinocandins have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).[62]

Topical antifungals (oral preparations)

Class Summary

These agents are used for the treatment of oral candidiasis (thrush).

Nystatin oral suspension (Nilstat)

Nystatin oral suspension is the drug of choice (DOC) for oral candidiasis. It is a fungicidal and fungistatic antibiotic obtained from Streptomyces noursei.

Topical antifungals (dermatologic)

Class Summary

These agents are used to treat cutaneous candidiasis.

Nystatin cream (Mycostatin, Nilstat)

Nystatin cream is the DOC in cutaneous candidiasis. Each gram of cream contains 100,000 U.

Clotrimazole 1% cream (Lotrimin, Mycelex)

Clotrimazole 1% cream is a second-line agent in the treatment of cutaneous candidiasis.

Miconazole topical (Absorbine, Micatin)

Miconazole topical is an alternate topical antifungal. Lotion is preferred in intertriginous areas. If cream is used, apply sparingly to avoid maceration effects.

Systemic antifungals (oral)

Class Summary

These agents are used for treatment of cutaneous infections refractory to treatment by topical agents or as adjunctive therapy for systemic candidal infection.

Fluconazole oral (Diflucan)

Fluconazole oral is a synthetic oral antifungal (broad-spectrum bistriazole) that selectively inhibits fungal CYP450 and sterol C-14 alpha-demethylation, which prevents conversion of lanosterol to ergosterol, thereby disrupting cellular membranes.

Itraconazole (Sporanox)

Itraconazole is an effective oral systemic antifungal, but is rarely used in pediatrics. It has fungistatic activity. Itraconazole is a synthetic triazole antifungal agent that slows fungal cell growth by inhibiting CYP450-dependent synthesis of ergosterol, a vital component of fungal cell membranes.

Ketoconazole (Nizoral)

Ketoconazole is a well-absorbed oral antifungal. Administer with food to reduce nausea and vomiting. It is an imidazole broad-spectrum antifungal agent. It inhibits synthesis of ergosterol, causing cellular components to leak, resulting in fungal cell death.

Flucytosine (Ancobon)

Flucytosine is also known as 5-FC. It is converted to fluorouracil after penetrating fungal cells. It inhibits RNA and protein synthesis and is active against Candida and Cryptococcus species and generally used in combination with amphotericin B, never alone due to concern for resistance.

Posaconazole (Noxafil)

Posaconazole is a triazole antifungal agent. It blocks ergosterol synthesis by inhibiting the enzyme lanosterol 14-alpha-demethylase and sterol precursor accumulation. This action results in cell membrane disruption. It is available as an oral suspension (200 mg/5 mL). It is indicated for prophylaxis of invasive Aspergillus and Candida infections in patients at high risk due to severe immunosuppression.

Voriconazole oral (Vfend)

Voriconazole oral is used for primary treatment of invasive aspergillosis and salvage treatment of Fusarium species or Scedosporium apiospermum infections. It is a triazole antifungal agent that inhibits fungal CYP450-mediated 14 alpha-lanosterol demethylation, which is essential in fungal ergosterol biosynthesis. It may be used as combination therapy for Candidemia. It is also used for prophylaxis in high-risk groups.

Systemic antifungals (intravenous)

Class Summary

The mechanism of action may involve an alteration of RNA and DNA metabolism or an intracellular accumulation of peroxide that is toxic to the fungal cell.

Fluconazole IV (Diflucan)

Fluconazole IV is a second-line agent for the treatment of systemic candidal infection in neutropenic patients.

Amphotericin B, liposome (AmBisome)

Amphotericin B in a 10% lipid emulsion appears to have less nephrotoxicity than the standard preparation of amphotericin. Lipid emulsion does not appear to decrease antifungal properties of amphotericin B.

Amphotericin B desoxycholate (Amphocin, Fungizone)

Amphotericin B desoxycholate is an important treatment of systemic fungal infections, especially molds. It has been replaced by the azoles and echinocandins as first-line therapy. It is a polyene antibiotic produced by a strain of Streptomyces nodosus; it can be fungistatic or fungicidal. It binds to sterols (eg, ergosterol) in the fungal cell membrane, causing intracellular components to leak, with subsequent fungal cell death.

Premedication with acetaminophen may help reduce rigors, chills, and fever associated the with infusion. Hydrocortisone directly added to infusate also may reduce febrile reactions.

Caspofungin (Cancidas)

Caspofungin is the first of a new class of antifungal drugs (glucan synthesis inhibitors). It inhibits synthesis of beta-(1,3)-D-glucan, an essential component of fungal cell wall. It is the DOC for systemic candidiasis in neutropenic or sick patients.

Voriconazole IV (Vfend)

Voriconazole IV is used for the primary treatment of invasive aspergillosis and salvage treatment of Fusarium species or Scedosporium apiospermum infections. It is a triazole antifungal agent that inhibits fungal CYP450-mediated 14 alpha-lanosterol demethylation, which is essential in fungal ergosterol biosynthesis. It may be used as combination therapy in Candidemia.

Micafungin (Mycamine)

Micafungin is a semisynthetic lipopeptide (echinocandin) antifungal agent that inhibits cell wall synthesis. It is indicated for use in children as young as 4 months to treat candidemia, acute disseminated candidiasis, candidal peritonitis and abscesses, esophageal candidiasis, and prophylaxis of candidal infections in hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) recipients.

 

Follow-up

Transfer

Transfer of patients with candidiasis is appropriate if the required level of care is not locally available.

Deterrence/Prevention

The risk of candidal diaper rash may be reduced by preventing irritant diaper dermatitis by using absorbent diapers and preventing excessive exposure to urine or feces.

Encourage parents to appropriately clean their infant's bottles and pacifiers while they are treated for thrush.

Encourage asthma patients to rinse their mouth after using their corticosteroid inhaler.

Keep hands dry; when wet work is unavoidable, use rubber gloves with cotton liners. Response is generally quite good to topical azoles.

Cutaneous candidiasis may be prevented by keeping areas cool and dry and by using breathable fabrics (eg, cotton).

Fluconazole is used extensively in patients with neutropenia, persons undergoing organ transplantation, and in extremely low birth weight infants.[7, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19] Although found to be generally safe in these populations and able to reduce candidal colonization, effect on survival has been minimal. New studies show prophylactic doses of fluconazole given in the newborn intensive care setting may prevent candidemia and colonization in high-risk patients.[8, 9, 20]

Prognosis

Prognosis for oral or cutaneous candidiasis is excellent with appropriate medical treatment.

Systemic candidiasis, especially in low birth weight premature infants, carries a high rate of morbidity and mortality. Even with appropriate treatment, mortality may reach 50% in this population.[21]

Patient Education

For patient education resources, see eMedicineHealth's Infections Center, Children's Health Center, and Skin Conditions and Beauty Center, as well as Candidiasis (Yeast Infection), Yeast Infection Diaper Rash, and Yeast Infection Skin Rash.

 

Questions & Answers

Overview

What is pediatric candidiasis?

Which organs may be affected by pediatric candidiasis infections?

What is the cutaneous manifestations of pediatric candidiasis?

How does pediatric candidiasis develop in nails?

What are risk factors for pediatric oral candidiasis?

What is the prevalence of genital candidiasis?

What are the clinical manifestations of systemic pediatric candidiasis?

What are the risk factors for development of pediatric candidiasis?

What is chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMCC)?

What is the prevalence of pediatric candidiasis in the US?

What is the mortality and morbidity associated to pediatric candidiasis?

What is the racial predilection in prevalence of pediatric candidiasis?

What are the sexual predilections in prevalence of pediatric candidiasis?

In which age group is pediatric candidiasis most prevalence?

Presentation

What are the signs and symptoms of pediatric candidiasis?

What are the signs and symptoms of cutaneous candidiasis?

What is the clinical presentation of paronychia and onychomycosis in pediatric candidiasis?

What are the signs and symptoms of vulvovaginitis in pediatric candidiasis?

Which clinical history findings are characteristic of otitis externa in pediatric candidiasis?

Which clinical history findings are characteristic of pediatric GI candidiasis?

What is the clinical presentation of pneumonia in pediatric candidiasis?

What are risk factors for cystitis in pediatric candidiasis?

What are the risk factors for endophthalmitis in pediatric candidiasis?

What are the risk factors for CNS manifestations of pediatric candidiasis?

What are risk factors for endocarditis in pediatric candidiasis?

What are risk factors for hepatic (hepatosplenic) candidiasis?

What are physical exam findings of thrush relative to pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of cutaneous candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of paronychia and onychomycosis in pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of genital candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of GI pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of otitis externa in pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of hepatic candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of endocarditis in pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of endophthalmitis in pediatric candidiasis?

Which physical findings are characteristic of CNS pediatric candidiasis?

What causes pediatric candidiasis?

What causes pediatric candidiasis in immunocompromised patients?

Which neonates are at higher risk of developing pediatric candidiasis?

What causes chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (CMCC)?

DDX

What are the differential diagnoses for Pediatric Candidiasis?

Workup

What is the role of potassium hydroxide (KOH) slide preparation in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of blood culture in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of beta-glucan assay in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of D-arabinitol assay in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of imaging studies in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of lumbar puncture in the diagnosis of pediatric candidiasis?

Treatment

How is pediatric candidiasis treated?

What is the role of surgery in the treatment of pediatric candidiasis?

Which specialist consultations are beneficial for patients with pediatric candidiasis?

Which dietary modifications are used in the treatment of pediatric candidiasis?

Which activity modifications are used in the treatment of pediatric candidiasis?

What is the role of fluconazole in the prevention of pediatric candidiasis?

Medications

Which medications are used in the treatment of pediatric candidiasis?

Which medications in the drug class Systemic antifungals (intravenous) are used in the treatment of Pediatric Candidiasis?

Which medications in the drug class Systemic antifungals (oral) are used in the treatment of Pediatric Candidiasis?

Which medications in the drug class Topical antifungals (dermatologic) are used in the treatment of Pediatric Candidiasis?

Which medications in the drug class Topical antifungals (oral preparations) are used in the treatment of Pediatric Candidiasis?

Follow-up

When is transfer of patients with pediatric candidiasis indicated?

How is pediatric candidiasis prevented?

What is the prognosis of pediatric candidiasis?

What should be included in patient education about pediatric candidiasis?