Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Host age and denture wearing jointly contribute to oral colonization with intrinsically azole-resistant yeasts in the elderly

In elderly patients, several morbidities or medical treatments predisposing for fungal infections occur at a higher frequency, leading to high mortality and morbidity in this vulnerable patient group. Often, this is linked to an innately azole-resistant yeast species such as Candida glabrata or C. krusei. Additionally, host age per se and the wearing of dentures have been determined to influence the mix of colonizing species and, consequently, the species distribution of invasive fungal infections. Since both old age and the wearing of dentures are two tightly connected parameters, it is still unclear which of them is the main contributor. Here, we performed a cross-sectional study on a cohort (N = 274) derived from three groups of healthy elderly, diseased elderly, and healthy young controls. With increasing host age, the frequency of oral colonization by a non-albicans Candida species, mainly by C. glabrata, also increased, and the wearing of dentures predisposed for colonization by C. glabrata irrespectively of host age. Physically diseased hosts, on the other hand, were more frequently orally colonized by C. albicans than by other yeasts. For both C. albicans and C. glabrata, isolates from the oral cavity did not generally display an elevated biofilm formation capacity. In conclusion, intrinsically azole-drug-resistant, non-albicans Candida yeasts are more frequent in the oral cavities of the elderly, and fungal cells not contained in biofilms may predispose for subsequent systemic infection with these organisms. This warrants further exploration of diagnostic procedures, e.g., before undergoing elective abdominal surgery or when using indwelling devices on this patient group.

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