Fungal colonisation and fluconazole therapy in acute liver disease

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Fungal infection, particularly with Candida spp., has been identified as an important cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with acute liver failure. Fungal colonisation of superficial mucosal sites usually precedes invasive infection. We investigated colonisation patterns in patients with acute liver disease receiving fluconazole therapy in order to investigate the possibility of emergence of fluconazole-resistant C. albicans or other species.


During a 6-month study period, we studied all patients referred to our unit with acute liver disease by twice-weekly sampling and mycological analysis of specimens from superficial mucosal and other sites as appropriate. Patients were treated with prophylactic antimicrobials including 100 mg fluconazole daily in accordance with our usual protocol.


Twenty-two patients with acute liver disease were studied, eight of whom underwent transplantation. Eighteen patients were colonised by fungi at presentation, and six developed secondary colonisation during fluconazole therapy. Four of these patients (all transplanted) became colonised by resistant species; one of these was Aspergillus fumigatus, which led to death. There were no other invasive fungal infections identified during the study period, and no fluconazole-resistant C. albicans were identified.


Resistance to fluconazole is unlikely to develop in C. albicans during short-term fluconazole prophylaxis in acute liver disease, and in this study we did not find evidence of invasive disease from other Candida spp. during fluconazole therapy. However, in patients at particularly high risk, other strategies are required to prevent infection with Aspergillus spp.

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