Disseminated Invasive Candidiasis in an Immunocompetent Host

Health care providers should consider a nonbacterial source as the causative agent for invasive candidiasis infection in immunocompetent patients.

Author and Disclosure Information



Candida albicans (C albicans) is a normal commensal in the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In addition to localized infections in healthy human beings, dissemination with fatal outcome can occur in immunocompromised individuals.1

Invasive candidiasis (IC) due to C albicans is the most common nosocomial mycosis in the world and has 2 forms, candidemia and deep-seated tissue candidiasis, which can lead to multisystem organ failure.2 The deep-seated form may originate from nonhematogenous routes, such as introduction through a peritoneal catheter or ascending infection from cystitis.2 In addition, about 50% of primary candidemia cases lead to secondary deep-seated candidiasis; however, only about 40% of these cases show positive blood cultures. Since the window of opportunity for a positive culture is narrow, active candidemia may be missed.3,4

Once developed, the prognosis for IC is grim: Mortality is 40% regardless of therapy.2 IC typically occurs in immunocompromised hosts; IC in immunocompetent persons has rarely been reported.5,6 It is challenging to diagnose IC in the immunocompetent patients as 50% to 70% of the general population is naturally colonized by this organism, and when found, it is assumed to be mostly innocuous. Neutrophil-driven cell-mediated immunity associated with IL-1 and IL-17 response prevent fungal growth and dissemination, protecting the immunocompetent host.7

We report on a patient who showed no neutropenia or leukocytopenia but developed disseminated candidiasis. This report is one of the rare cases of full-blown disseminated candidiasis with lesions related to C albicans found in almost all of the important organs.

Case Presentation

A 67-year-old male patient with a history of hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, daily heavy alcohol consumption, and a 50-pack-year history of smoking developed gangrene of the left fifth toe. He underwent vascular surgery consultation with an aortogram/left lower extremity angiography that showed occlusion of the left external iliac artery as well as the left common femoral artery. It was decided to improve inflow in the common iliac artery by placing a bare metal stent and subsequent balloon dilatation before a right to left femoral to femoral artery bypass. The patient tolerated the procedure well and was discharged home.

Two days later, the patient was admitted to a US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) complexity level 1a hospital with weakness and worsening pain in the left lower extremities. Examination revealed chronic ischemic changes in the feet bilaterally and evidence of dry gangrene in the left fifth toe requiring femoral bypass surgery. But poor nutritional status and cardiac status prevented pursuing a permanent solution.

Following completion of a stress echocardiogram, the patient developed shock with systolic blood pressure of 60 mm Hg, and atrial fibrillation (AF) with rapid ventricular rate (RVR). He was initially treated with IV fluid supplementation, vasopressor therapy, synchronized cardioversion, and IV amiodarone/anticoagulation therapy, due to his persistent AF with RVR. The patient was transferred to a tertiary care center for persistent hypothermia and received treatment with warm saline. After initial recovery with warm saline resuscitation, he had a prolonged, complicated hospital course in which he developed progressive respiratory failure requiring intubation and critical care support. He developed a right internal jugular deep venous thrombosis, heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, lower GI bleeding requiring emergent embolization by interventional radiology, inferior vena cava filter placement, renal failure requiring dialysis, small bowel obstruction secondary to right lower quadrant phlegmon and perforation requiring small bowel resection and end ileostomy. His antibiotic regimen included therapy with vancomycin and piperacillin-tazobactam.

He eventually recovered and was extubated and subsequently transferred back to the VA hospital where cefepime was initiated because of suspicion of a urinary tract infection and septicemia (urine cultures eventually grew C albicans). Over the subsequent 3 days, the patient’s renal output and hyperkalemia worsened, he also developed increased anion gap metabolic acidosis and was intubated again and placed on full mechanical ventilatory support. His blood cultures were negative, and sputum cultures revealed normal respiratory flora and 1+ C albicans. Infectious diseases consultation recommended an abdominal ultrasound, which revealed nonspecific findings. The antibiotic regimen was changed to daptomycin and piperacillin-tazobactam. A follow-up chest X-ray revealed a developing right lower lobe pneumonia and hilar prominence suggestive of lymphadenopathy. The patient’s clinical condition deteriorated, and he subsequently developed cardiac arrest; resuscitation was not successful and he expired.

Next Article:

Addressing the Shortage of Physician Assistants in Medicine Clerkship Sites

Related Articles