Around 80% of humans host Candida albicans, a fungus, in their gut or mouth, without it causing any apparent symptoms. This classes it as a commensal organism. However, stresses such as the use of immunosuppressant drugs or antibiotics, or undergoing invasive surgery, can remove microbial competition. This enables C. albicans to grow more freely in the body. This can typically result in oral thrush, termed oral candidiasis, which affects 40–70% of otherwise healthy individuals at least once in their lifetime. Similarly, changes in C. albicans behaviour will cause vaginal candidiasis (vaginal thrush). Around 75% of females will be affected at some point during their lives.
If C. albicans gets into the bloodstream, it results in fungal-induced sepsis. This can spread throughout the body and to organs including the kidneys and liver, causing organ failure and leading to death in over 40% of cases. Around 250 000 people worldwide each year suffer such extreme infections. This makes C. albicans the fourth most common bloodstream infection in intensive care units, and is most common in older people.
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