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Can a Common Medical Practice Transform Candida Infections From Benign to Deadly?

Joan Stephenson, PhD
JAMA. 2001;286(20):2531-2532. doi:10.1001/jama.286.20.2531.
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San Francisco—New research hints that a common medical practice—the use of heparin in intravascular catheters to discourage blockages by blood clots—may sometimes inadvertently trigger events that transform a benign fungal infection into a deadly illness.

The microbe in question is Candida albicans, a yeast that often harmlessly colonizes patients. But C albicans has a darker side: it is also the leading cause of invasive fungal disease in premature infants and others with weakened immune systems, such as individuals infected with HIV, people recovering from surgery, and cancer or bone marrow transplantation patients.

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Candida albicans: What turns it deadly? (Photo credit: Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health)

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