Thrush Infection Overview

Fungal infection of the mouth and esophagus caused by the Candida fungi

Candida albicans yeast, SEM
Thrush Infection. SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

Candida is one of the most common fungi to cause disease in humans. It can cause disease in the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, and the female genital tract.

Species Name: Candida

Type of Microbe: Fungi

How it causes disease: Candida is a common infection in people who have weakened immune systems, as well as a common hospital-acquired (nosocomial) infection. The fungi grow in damaged skin and can spread through the bloodstream to cause an infection throughout the body.

How it spreads: Candida is a commensal organism (lives on the body without normally causing disease), but it can cause infection when the environment inside the mouth and throat becomes imbalanced. Infection in the mouth is called thrush, whereas infection in the esophagus is called esophageal candidiasis.

Who’s at risk? Individuals who have weakened immune systems or those taking antibiotics, corticosteroids, or chemotherapy are at higher risk for thrush.

Symptoms: White patches inside the mouth are caused by an overgrowth of the Candida fungus. Other symptoms may include redness or soreness inside the mouth, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. Esophageal candidiasis can cause pain and difficulty swallowing.

Diagnosis: Culture or microscopic examination of scrapings of white patches from the mouth.

Prognosis: Without treatment, symptoms may persist.

Treatment: Thrush can be treated with antifungals, clotrimazol, nystatin, and fluconzole.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. Candidiasis. Accessed May 21, 2009.

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