There’s a Fungus Among Us

A 53 year old man with history of stroke, alcoholism, heart failure, hypertension, and atrophic right kidney presented to the ED with acute urinary retention and complained of dysuria and frequency. He was afebrile, denied nausea/vomiting or headaches. His labs at admission are listed below:

  • WBC: 21 k
  • Na: 122
  • Cr: 3 (baseline 1.2)

Urinalysis showed innumerable white blood cells, leukocyte esterase 3+ and negative nitrite.

A catheter was placed and drained 1 L of yellow cloudy urine. The patient refused admission and he was prescribed ciprofloxacin 500 mg BID empirically and was sent home with a foley catheter in place with plans to follow up with Urology. He returned to the ED the following day because his foley catheter was not draining urine and he noted leaking around his catheter. CT scan was obtained and showed ill-defined areas of increased and decreased attenuation within the urinary bladder lumen and left hydroureteronephrosis.


Urine cultures obtained during his initial presentation grew >100,000 yeast and he was treated with fluconazole. The patient was taken to the operating room 11 days after first presentation to diagnose and treat the mass in the bladder. A tan-brown mass was removed and send to surgical pathology. Representative section (H&E stain) of the specimen is shown below:


Which of the following statements regarding Candiduria is true?

  1. Most patients with candiduria are asymptomatic and the yeasts merely represent colonization
  2. The presence of pseudohyphae in the urine or the number of colonies growing in culture help to distinguish colonization from infection
  3. The most commonly involved organ in disseminated candidiasis is the heart
  4. There is a higher propensity for fungal ball formation in adults than children

The correct answer is 1. Most patients with candiduria are asymptomatic and the yeast merely represent colonization. Infected patients may have symptoms (dysuria, frequency, suprapubic discomfort) while others might not. Pyuria is so common in patients with a chronic indwelling bladder catheter that it cannot be used to indicate infection.

Neither the presence of pseudohyphae in the urine nor the number of colonies growing in culture (unlike bacterial cultures) help to distinguish colonization from infection. Ascending infections are rare but usually subacute or chronic, unilateral and can cause perinephric abscesses.

Fungus balls in adults are uncommon with less than 10 adult cases reported in the literature. Risk factors include uncontrolled diabetes, prolonged use of antibiotics or steroids and immune compromise. Classic laboratory findings include marked leukocytosis, pyuria, hematuria and a concomitant bacterial urinary tract infection. Most cases are caused by Candida species although Aspergillus has been implicated in a few cases.

The kidneys are the most commonly involved organ in disseminated candidiasis and there is a higher propensity of fungus ball formation in neonates.

-Agnes Balla, MD is a 1st year anatomic and clinical pathology resident at the University of Vermont Medical Center.


-Christi Wojewoda, MD, is the Director of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and an Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont.

Why Do Two When One Will Do?

Today I attended a great session on transfusion case studies by Carolyn D. Burns, MD, FASCP, and Phillip J. DeChristopher, MD, PhD, FASCP. The speakers were dynamic, personable, and made learning fun. They presented cases on hematology/oncology, transplant recipients, and HLA antibodies, among others. I won’t go over each case—honestly, there was so much great information I’m afraid I won’t do it justice—but I’d like to share tidbits I found interesting.

-A fact that I had forgotten from my blood banking class oh-so-long-ago: the platelets your body makes live for eight to ten days, an autologous platelet transfusion last four days, and a non-autologous transfusion would last three. If a patient has an immune response to a platelet reaction, those platelet might only live a day.

-Fellows and residents in transfusion medicine don’t actually know how to transfuse a unit of blood product. They aren’t aware of what happens in a blood bank or a transfusion center. Laboratory professionals need to be cognizant of this and be open with information. Use teaching moments when they present themselves.

-Eliminate unnecessary transfusions through dialogue with doctor and pathology. Hence the title of this post: “why do two when one will do?” It’s a mantra for the blood banker to live by.

-Don’t be afraid to question orders. Medical technologists might be the first line of defense, so to speak, and are essential when bringing questionable orders to the attention of pathologists. Don’t be afraid to speak up when your instincts are telling you something is off. Hone your critical thinking skills.

-Blood transfusion is like marriage. It should not be entered upon lightly, wantonly or more often than is absolutely necessary.

-This couldn’t be stressed enough: keep the lines of communication open. Ask the doctor and/or nurse questions about the patient; have a open relationship with your medical director; don’t be afraid to ask questions.