Candida parapsilosis: Introduction, Morphology, Pathogenicity, Lab Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, and Keynotes


Candida parapsilosis is a species of yeast that belongs to the Candida genus, which includes various fungi commonly found in the environment and on the human body. Candida species are part of the normal human microbiota, residing on the skin, mucous membranes, and gastrointestinal tract. However, under certain conditions, they can become opportunistic pathogens and cause infections, especially in immunocompromised individuals or those with weakened immune systems.

It is known to cause various infections in humans, including bloodstream infections (candidemia), infections of the urinary tract, endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining or valves), and infections of other internal organs. It is often associated with infections in neonates, elderly individuals, and patients in intensive care units (ICUs).

Risk factors for C. parapsilosis infections include the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, intravenous catheters, long hospital stays, diabetes, and immunosuppression. In healthcare settings, the transmission of Candida species can occur through contaminated medical equipment or healthcare workers’ hands.

Diagnosing C. parapsilosis infections usually involves obtaining clinical samples, such as blood, urine, or tissue cultures, to identify the specific Candida species causing the infection. Antifungal susceptibility testing is also performed to determine the most appropriate treatment.

Treatment of C. parapsilosis infections often involves antifungal medications such as fluconazole, echinocandins (e.g., caspofungin, micafungin), or amphotericin B. However, the choice of antifungal agent may depend on the severity of the infection, the patient’s underlying health condition, and antifungal susceptibility testing results.

As with any medical condition, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment if you suspect a C. parapsilosis infection.


Candida parapsilosis has a characteristic morphology as a yeast. Its cellular structure and appearance can be described as follows:

  1. Yeast Cells: C.parapsilosis exists primarily in the yeast form, which is the typical non-filamentous, unicellular state of the fungus. These yeast cells are oval or round in shape and are usually small, measuring about 2 to 5 micrometers in diameter.
  2. Budding: Like other Candida species, C. parapsilosis reproduces by a process called budding. Budding is a form of asexual reproduction in which a new daughter cell (bud) forms and separates from the mother cell, resulting in the formation of two individual yeast cells. The buds are often seen as small protrusions or “bumps” on the surface of the mother yeast cell.
  3. Gram Stain: In a Gram stain, C. parapsilosis will appear as Gram-positive. This means that the yeast cells will retain the crystal violet stain, appearing purple or blue, indicating the presence of a thick cell wall, a characteristic feature of many fungi.
  4. Pseudohyphae and True Hyphae: Although Candida parapsilosis is primarily a yeast form, under certain conditions, it may produce pseudohyphae and true hyphae. Pseudohyphae are elongated cell chains with constrictions between the cells, giving them a somewhat filamentous appearance. True hyphae are long, branching, and filamentous structures that are more commonly associated with other Candida species, such as Candida albicans.

It’s important to note that the morphology of C. parapsilosis can vary depending on the growth conditions and environment it encounters. Laboratory techniques, such as culture and microscopy, are commonly used to observe and identify the morphological characteristics of this yeast species. Additionally, molecular methods, like DNA sequencing, can provide definitive identification of C. parapsilosis and distinguish it from other Candida species.


Candida parapsilosis is considered an opportunistic pathogen, meaning it generally does not cause disease in healthy individuals but can become pathogenic under specific circumstances, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems or underlying health conditions. Here are some key aspects of the pathogenicity of C. parapsilosis:

  1. Infections: C. parapsilosis can cause a range of infections in humans. The most common infection associated with this yeast is candidemia, which refers to a bloodstream infection with Candida species. Candidemia is a serious condition with high morbidity and mortality rates, especially in critically ill or immunocompromised patients. C. parapsilosis is one of the leading causes of candidemia, along with Candida albicans.
  2. Biofilm Formation: One of the factors that contribute to the pathogenicity of Candida parapsilosis is its ability to form biofilms. A biofilm is a complex community of microorganisms encased in a protective matrix, adhering to surfaces. Biofilms provide increased resistance to antifungal agents and the host immune response, making infections more challenging to treat.
  3. Medical Device-Associated Infections: It is commonly associated with infections related to the use of medical devices such as intravenous catheters, central venous catheters, and urinary catheters. The formation of biofilms on these devices can facilitate the persistence and spread of the infection.
  4. Neonatal Infections: It is a significant cause of fungal infections in neonates, particularly those born prematurely or with low birth weight. Neonatal candidiasis can manifest as systemic candidemia or localized infections in various organs, such as the lungs, skin, and central nervous system.
  5. Antifungal Resistance: C. parapsilosis has shown some level of resistance to antifungal drugs, especially to azole antifungals like fluconazole. This resistance can complicate the treatment of infections caused by this species, particularly when dealing with biofilm-related infections.
  6. Immunocompromised Patients: C. parapsilosis infections are more commonly observed in patients with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplantation, or those with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or other immunodeficiency conditions.

Lab Diagnosis

The laboratory diagnosis of C. parapsilosis involves several methods to identify and confirm the presence of this yeast species in clinical samples. Some of the commonly used diagnostic techniques include:

  • Microscopy: Microscopic examination of clinical samples can provide initial clues about the presence of Candida species. A potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation of the sample can reveal yeast cells, hyphae (if present), and budding patterns characteristic of C. parapsilosis. However, microscopy alone cannot definitively identify the species and is often followed by other tests.
  • Culture: The gold standard for identifying C. parapsilosis is culture. Clinical samples, such as blood, urine, wound swabs, or other body fluids, are inoculated onto appropriate culture media, such as Sabouraud dextrose agar. Candida species typically form smooth, creamy, and often white colonies on the agar. To differentiate C. parapsilosis from other Candida species, additional tests are required.
  • Chromogenic Agar: Chromogenic media, like CHROMagar Candida, can help in the differentiation of various Candida species based on the color of the colonies. C. parapsilosis colonies on CHROMagar Candida exhibit a characteristic pink color.
Candida parapsilosis growth on Candida CHROMagar
Fig. Candida parapsilosis growth on Candida CHROMagar
  • Biochemical Tests: Various biochemical tests are used to distinguish Candida parapsilosis from other Candida species. For example, the assimilation profile of specific carbon sources can help differentiate it from other closely related species. The use of commercial identification systems like VITEK 2 or API 20C may also aid in the identification process.
  • MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry: Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) has revolutionized the identification of microorganisms, including Candida species. It provides rapid and accurate identification by analyzing the unique protein profiles of the organisms. MALDI-TOF MS can accurately identify Candida parapsilosis and differentiate it from other Candida species.
  • Molecular Methods: Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA sequencing are highly sensitive and specific methods for identifying C. parapsilosis. Specific primers target the genetic material of the yeast to confirm its presence and distinguish it from other Candida species.


The treatment of Candida parapsilosis infections depends on the site and severity of the infection, the patient’s overall health status, and antifungal susceptibility testing results. Generally, antifungal therapy is the mainstay of treatment for invasive Candida parapsilosis infections. The following are the commonly used antifungal agents for treating Candida parapsilosis infections:

  1. Echinocandins: Echinocandins, such as caspofungin, micafungin, and anidulafungin, are considered first-line treatment options for invasive Candida infections, including candidemia caused by Candida parapsilosis. Echinocandins inhibit the synthesis of beta-glucan, an essential component of the fungal cell wall, leading to cell wall damage and ultimately the death of the fungus. These agents are generally well-tolerated and have demonstrated good efficacy against Candida parapsilosis.
  2. Azoles: Azole antifungals, such as fluconazole, voriconazole, and isavuconazole, are another group of antifungal drugs used to treat C. parapsilosis infections. However, some strains of C. parapsilosis have shown varying degrees of resistance to azole drugs, particularly fluconazole. Therefore, the choice of an azole antifungal may depend on the susceptibility profile of the specific isolate.
  3. Amphotericin B: Amphotericin B, a polyene antifungal, is generally reserved for severe or refractory cases of Candida parapsilosis infections. It can be administered in its conventional form (amphotericin B deoxycholate) or liposomal formulations (e.g., liposomal amphotericin B) to reduce nephrotoxicity.
  4. Combination Therapy: In some challenging cases, combination antifungal therapy may be considered, particularly for critically ill patients with severe infections or those with persistent candidemia. Combining different classes of antifungals may help improve efficacy and reduce the risk of antifungal resistance.
  5. Antifungal Susceptibility Testing: Antifungal susceptibility testing should be performed for all C. parapsilosis isolates to guide the selection of appropriate antifungal therapy. This testing helps determine which antifungal agent is most effective against the specific strain of Candida parapsilosis causing the infection.

It’s important to note that treatment decisions should be made in consultation with an infectious disease specialist or healthcare provider experienced in managing fungal infections. Additionally, supportive measures to stabilize the patient’s condition and control any underlying factors contributing to the infection, such as immunosuppression or the presence of medical devices, are essential components of the management plan.


Preventing Candida parapsilosis infections involves a combination of infection control measures and strategies to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission. These preventive measures are particularly important in healthcare settings, where patients are more susceptible to fungal infections due to underlying illnesses or medical interventions. Here are some key prevention strategies:

  1. Hand Hygiene: Proper hand hygiene is essential for preventing the spread of C. parapsilosis and other healthcare-associated infections. Healthcare workers should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before and after patient contact, and after handling any potentially contaminated items.
  2. Catheter Care: Catheters, such as central venous catheters and urinary catheters, can provide entry points for fungal infections. Proper care and maintenance of catheters are crucial to prevent infection. Following strict aseptic techniques during catheter insertion and care can reduce the risk of Candida parapsilosis colonization and infection.
  3. Infection Control Practices: Healthcare facilities should have comprehensive infection control protocols in place to minimize the transmission of C. parapsilosis and other pathogens. This includes regular cleaning and disinfection of patient care areas and medical equipment.
  4. Antifungal Stewardship: Appropriate use of antifungal medications, such as avoiding unnecessary or prolonged use of broad-spectrum antifungals, helps prevent the development of drug-resistant Candida strains.
  5. Surveillance: Regular surveillance for candidemia and other Candida infections can help identify potential outbreaks or trends in antifungal resistance. Early detection allows for prompt implementation of infection control measures and appropriate treatment.
  6. Patient Screening: Identifying patients at high risk for C. parapsilosis infections, such as those with compromised immune systems or previous candidemia episodes, allows for targeted prevention strategies and closer monitoring.
  7. Environmental Hygiene: Maintaining a clean and hygienic environment in healthcare settings is critical. Regular cleaning of surfaces and equipment with appropriate disinfectants can help reduce the presence of Candida parapsilosis and other pathogens.
  8. Education and Training: Healthcare personnel should receive education and training on infection control practices, including hand hygiene, catheter care, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  9. Avoiding Contaminated Products: In home settings or areas where medical supplies are used, it’s essential to avoid using contaminated or expired products to minimize the risk of infection.


Candida parapsilosis is a significant fungal species with distinct characteristics and medical implications. Here are some keynotes on C. parapsilosis:

  1. Opportunistic Pathogen: It is an opportunistic pathogen, meaning it typically affects immunocompromised individuals or those with underlying health conditions.
  2. Candidemia: C. parapsilosis is a leading cause of candidemia, which is a bloodstream infection with Candida species. It accounts for a considerable proportion of invasive candidiasis cases.
  3. Neonatal Infections: It is commonly associated with infections in neonates, particularly those born prematurely or with low birth weight. Neonatal candidiasis can be severe and life-threatening.
  4. Medical Device-Associated Infections: C. parapsilosis is frequently linked to infections related to the use of medical devices, such as intravenous catheters and urinary catheters. It can form biofilms on these devices, making treatment challenging.
  5. Biofilm Formation: C. parapsilosis has a remarkable ability to form biofilms on both biotic and abiotic surfaces, contributing to its persistence and virulence.
  6. Antifungal Resistance: Some strains of C. parapsilosis have demonstrated resistance to antifungal drugs, particularly fluconazole. Antifungal susceptibility testing is essential to guide appropriate treatment.
  7. Diagnosis: Laboratory diagnosis involves microscopy, culture, biochemical tests, and molecular methods like MALDI-TOF MS and DNA sequencing to identify C. parapsilosis and distinguish it from other species.
  8. Treatment: Antifungal therapy is the mainstay of treatment for C. parapsilosis infections. Echinocandins are often the first-line choice, and azoles and amphotericin B may be used depending on the susceptibility profile of the isolate.
  9. Prevention: Preventive measures in healthcare settings include hand hygiene, infection control practices, catheter care, antifungal stewardship, patient screening, and environmental hygiene.
  10. Multidisciplinary Approach: Effective management of C. parapsilosis infections requires a multidisciplinary approach involving infectious disease specialists, healthcare providers, infection control teams, and pharmacists.

Further Readings

  1. Candida parapsilosis Infections: Look for articles that specifically focus on the epidemiology, risk factors, and clinical manifestations of Candida parapsilosis infections.
  2. Antifungal Susceptibility and Resistance: Investigate research papers that discuss the antifungal susceptibility patterns of Candida parapsilosis isolates and the emergence of resistance.
  3. Biofilm Formation: Learn more about the mechanisms and implications of Candida parapsilosis biofilm formation, as well as strategies to combat biofilm-related infections.
  4. Neonatal Candidiasis: Explore studies that delve into the epidemiology, clinical features, and management of Candida parapsilosis infections in neonates.
  5. Molecular Typing and Identification Methods: Investigate articles that focus on the use of molecular techniques for accurate identification and differentiation of Candida parapsilosis isolates.
  6. Antifungal Therapy and Treatment Guidelines: Read about the latest treatment guidelines and clinical trials related to antifungal therapy for Candida parapsilosis infections.

Leave a Comment