Candidiasis of the nervous system

Pooja Raibagkar MD (

Dr. Raibagkar of the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center has no relevant financial relationship to disclose.

Christina M Marra MD, editor. (

Dr. Marra of the University of Washington School of Medicine owned stock in Johnson & Johnson and McKesson within the past 12 months.

Originally released June 13, 2005; last updated December 30, 2019; expires December 30, 2022


Candida became a common central nervous system pathogen in the 1960s with the advent of chemotherapeutic agents, glucocorticoids, and intravenous drugs; candidiasis is now responsible for more than 90% of all clinically significant fungal infections. Nearly 50% of the patients dying from invasive candidiasis have CNS involvement (Panackal 2015). Meningitis is the most common form of CNS infection. The clinical symptoms are highly variable. Careful examination of the ocular fundus and the skin provides clues to suspect candida infection. There is an increased incidence of both disseminated and CNS candidiasis in newborns, especially premature infants. In some specific clinical situations, such as bone marrow transplant recipients or severe burn patients, Candida is the leading cause of CNS infection. Diagnosis is often made from biopsy specimens or culture. Candida meningitis responds best to intravenous amphotericin B and oral flucytosine.

Historical note and terminology

The history of candidiasis dates back to the 4th century BC when Hippocrates described oral aphtha (thrush) in 2 patients with severe underlying disease. In 1861, Zenker discovered a Candida-like organism in brain lesions. A brain abscess caused by Candida species was initially reported in 1895 (Kwon-Chung and Bennett 1992). In 1933 Smith and Sano identified the first case of Candida meningitis, but it was not until 1943 that Candida was successfully cultured from a cerebral lesion. Candida remained a relatively uncommon CNS pathogen until the 1960s when use of chemotherapeutic agents, glucocorticoids, and intravenous heroin rendered increasing numbers of patients susceptible to Candida infections (Scheld et al 2004).

The content you are trying to view is available only to logged in, current MedLink Neurology subscribers.

If you are a subscriber, please log in.

If you are a former subscriber or have registered before, please log in first and then click select a Service Plan or contact Subscriber Services. Site license users, click the Site License Acces link on the Homepage at an authorized computer.

If you have never registered before, click Learn More about MedLink Neurology  or view available Service Plans.

Find out how you can join MedLink Neurology