Epidemiology of fungal infections and risk factors in newborn patients

Paolo Manzoni

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7175/rhc.v4i1S.856


The incidence of fungal infections among newborn babies is increasing, owing mainly to the in­creased ability to care and make survive immature infants at higher specific risk for fungal infections. The risk is higher in infants with very low and extremely low birth weight, in babies receiving total parenteral nutrition, in neonates with limited barrier effect in the gut, or with central venous catheter or other devices where fungal biofilms can originate. Also neonates receiving broad spectrum antibiotics, born through caesarian section or non-breastfed can feature an increased, specific risk. Most fungal infections in neonatology occur in premature children, are of nosocomial origin, and are due to Candida species. Colonization is a preliminary step, and some factors must be considered for the diagnosis and grading process: the iso­lation site, the number of colonized sites, the intensity of colonization, and the Candida subspecies. The most complicated patients are at greater risk of fungal infections, and prophylaxis or pre-emptive therapy should often be considered. A consistent decisional tree in neonatology is yet to be defined, but some efforts have been made in order to identify characteristics that should guide the prophylaxis or treatment choices. A negative blood culture and the absence of symptoms aren’t enough to rule out the diagnosis of fungal infections in newborn babies. Similarly, laboratory tests have been validated only for adults. The clinical judgement is of utmost importance in the diagnostic process, and should take into account the presence of clinical signs of infection, of a severe clinical deterioration, as well as changes in some laboratory tests, and also the presence and characteristics of a pre-existing fungal colonization.


Fungal infections; Neonatology; Risk factors; Candida; Premature children; Colonization

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