Candida albicans, the opportunist. A cellular and molecular perspective

PF Dupont Department of Basic Biomedical Sciences, William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, Chicago, IL 60610.

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Candida albicans causes the majority of opportunistic fungal infections. The yeast's commensualistic relationship with humans enables it, when environmental conditions are favorable, to multiply and replace much of the normal flora. Virulence factors of C. albicans, enabling the organism to adhere to and penetrate host tissues, involve specific molecular interactions between the cells of the fungus and the host. Localized disease, such as oral candidiasis, onychomycosis, and vaginitis, results. These infections are usually limited to surfaces of the host, and can be quickly and successfully controlled by the use of one of the available antifungal agents. Candida albicans infections typically become systemic and life threatening when the host is immunocompromised. Depending on the immune defect in the host, one of the spectrum of Candida diseases can develop. If successful treatment of these patients is to be achieved, modulation of the immune deficit, as well as the use of an appropriate antifungal drug, must become a routine part of therapeutic interventions.