The role of Candida albicans in the cystic fibrosis (CF) airway is underexplored. Considered a colonizer, few question its pathogenic potential despite high isolation frequencies from sputum culture. We evaluated the frequency and identified the strongest predictors of C albicans colonization in CF. Independent associations of colonization with clinical outcomes were determined, and the longitudinal effects of C albicans acquisition on BMI and FEV1 were evaluated.
A prospective observational study of 89 patients with CF was performed (3,916 sputum samples over 11 years). Frequency of C albicans growth in sputum allowed classification of the cohort into colonizers and noncolonizers. BMI, FEV1, hospital-treated exacerbations, and other clinical parameters were followed throughout the study to determine association with colonization status. Multivariate regression determined the strongest predictors of colonization and for clinical effects after adjustment for confounders. Repeated-measures analysis of variance assessed the longitudinal effect of colonization on BMI and FEV1.
Colonization with C albicans was frequent (49.4%) and best predicted by pancreatic insufficiency (P = .014), osteopenia (P = .03), and cocolonization with Pseudomonas species (P = .002). C albicans colonization significantly predicted hospital-treated exacerbations (P = .004) after adjustment for confounders. Exacerbation rate significantly increased in patients with chronic or intermittent colonizations following first acquisition of C albicans. Colonization accelerated rates of decline for BMI (P < .0001) and FEV1 (P < .001).
Airway colonization with C albicans presaged a greater rate of FEV1 decline and hospital-treated exacerbations in CF.