Microbe of the Month: Candida
Classification Type: Fungi
Cultured from / Found in HVAC: Coiling Coils, Diffusers, Grilles, Filters, Drain Pans, Humidifiers
Noted Health Risks:
Mucosal Infections, Skin infections, Bloodstream Infections, Urinary Tract Infections
About the Candida Fungi
A new species of the Genus, Candida auris is a multidrug-resistant fungus that has been identified as a public health threat due to its high mortality rate and ability to cause outbreaks in healthcare facilities. While much attention has been focused on preventing the spread of Candida auris through direct contact with contaminated surfaces, there is increasing concern about the potential for airborne transmission of the fungus. In this article, we will explore the risks associated with Candida auris in indoor air quality and what can be done to minimise those risks.
Candida auris and Indoor Air Quality
Candida auris has been detected in the air of healthcare facilities, and studies have shown that it can remain viable in the air for several hours [1, 2]. This raises concerns about the potential for airborne transmission of the fungus, particularly in spaces with poor ventilation or where air is recirculated . Candida auris can also persist on surfaces for long periods of time, making it difficult to eradicate from healthcare environments .
Preventing the Spread of Candida auris through Indoor Air Quality
Improving indoor air quality can help to minimise the risk of Candida auris transmission. The following measures can be taken to reduce the risk of airborne transmission:
- Proper ventilation: Proper ventilation is critical in preventing the spread of airborne infections. Healthcare facilities should ensure that their ventilation systems are properly designed and maintained to minimise the risk of airborne transmission. Ventilation rates should be in compliance with industry standards, and measures such as opening windows or doors can improve natural ventilation and help to dilute any airborne particles .
- Air filtration: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can be used to remove fungal spores from the air. These filters are particularly effective at capturing small particles that can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. HEPA filters should be properly installed, regularly maintained, and replaced as needed.
- Cleaning and disinfection: Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces can help to minimise the risk of Candida auris contamination. This includes using appropriate disinfectants and ensuring that cleaning procedures are followed consistently.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): Healthcare workers and others who are at risk of exposure to Candida auris should wear appropriate PPE, such as masks, gloves, and gowns, to minimise the risk of infection.
Candida can affect various mucosal surfaces, including the oesophagus, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. Candidemia, a bloodstream infection caused by Candida species is often associated with catheter-related infections or surgical complications.
Health Risks Associated with Candida
Candida fungus, including Candida auris, can pose various health risks, particularly for individuals with compromised immune systems. Here are some of the health risks associated with Candida fungus:
- Candidiasis: Candidiasis refers to a range of infections caused by Candida species. Common types of candidiasis include oral thrush (affects the mouth and throat), vaginal yeast infections, and cutaneous candidiasis (skin infections). Symptoms may include white patches in the mouth, itching, redness, and discomfort in the affected areas.
- Invasive Candidiasis: Invasive candidiasis occurs when Candida enters the bloodstream or other deep tissues, spreading throughout the body. This condition is more severe and can be life-threatening, especially for immunocompromised individuals. Symptoms may include fever, chills, low blood pressure, organ failure, and a high risk of sepsis.
- Candidemia: Candidemia specifically refers to a bloodstream infection caused by Candida species. It is often associated with catheter-related infections or surgical complications. Candidemia can lead to serious complications, including sepsis and endocarditis.
- Candida-related urinary tract infections: Candida can also cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), particularly in individuals with urinary catheters or other urinary tract abnormalities. Symptoms may include frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
- Mucosal Infections: Candida can affect various mucosal surfaces, including the oesophagus, respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract. In immunocompromised individuals, such infections can cause oesophagitis, bronchitis, or gastrointestinal complications.
It is important to note that the severity of Candida infections can vary depending on the individual's immune system, overall health, and the specific Candida species involved. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate anti-fungal treatment are crucial in managing these infections.
Welsh RM, et al. Detection of Candida auris in air samples from healthcare facilities in Oman. J Hosp Infect. 2019;102(4):424-427. Bongomin F, et al. Environmental sources of Candida auris: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Fungal Biol. 2020;124(4):523-529. Moore G, et al. Airborne dispersal as a novel transmission route of Candida auris in healthcare facilities. Clin Infect Dis. 2020;71(10):2676-2683. Chowdhary A, et al. Candida auris: A rapidly emerging cause of hospital-acquired multidrug-resistant fungal infections globally. PLoS Pathog. 2018;14(12):e1007465. ASHRA
Safe indoor air from a serviced HVAC system means a lower particle count and less breathing difficulties for occupants of the building. Clean-Air are IICRC mould remediation experts with the knowledge and experience to test, treat and eliminate serious mould-related risks within your HVAC system. If you have concerns about the air you are breathing, or would like an HVAC health check, contact our team today.