Echinocandins: role in antifungal therapy, 2005

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2005 Aug;6(10):1657-68. doi: 10.1517/14656566.6.10.1657.


Novel therapies to treat invasive fungal infections have revolutionised the care of patients with candidiasis, aspergillosis and other less common fungal infections. Physicians in the twenty first century have access to safer versions of conventional drugs (i.e., lipid amphotericin B products), extended-spectrum versions of established drugs (i.e., voriconazole), as well as a new class of antifungal agents; the echinocandins. The increased number of options in the antifungal armamentarium is well timed, as the incidence of both invasive candidiasis and invasive aspergillosis, and the financial burden associated with these infections, have increased significantly in the past several decades. The increasing incidence of fungal infections has risen in parallel with the increase in critically ill and immunocompromised patients. Candida is the fourth most common bloodstream isolate, approximately 50% of which are non-albicans species. Estimates suggest there to be 9.8 episodes of invasive candidiasis per 1000 admissions to surgical intensive care units, with attributable mortality at 30% and cost per episode of US44,000 dollars. The burden of candidiasis is even higher in the paediatric population, with Candida being the second most common bloodstream infection. The increase in non-albicans candidiasis mandates the introduction of new antifungal agents capable of treating these often azole-resistant isolates. In addition, there has been a rise in the incidence of invasive aspergillosis, the most common invasive mould infection following haematopoietic stem cell transplantation, with an estimated incidence of 10 - 20%. The mortality associated with invasive aspergillosis has increased by 357% since 1980. Unfortunately, the overall survival rate among patients treated with amphotericin B, and even voriconazole, remains suboptimal, as evidenced by the failure of treatment in 47% of patients in the landmark voriconazole versus amphotericin B trial. Given the increasing incidence and suboptimal outcomes of these serious fungal infections, novel therapies represent an opportunity for significant advancement in clinical care. The current challenge is to discover the optimal place for the echinocandins in the treatment of invasive fungal infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anidulafungin
  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Caspofungin
  • Echinocandins
  • Fungal Proteins / chemistry
  • Fungal Proteins / pharmacology
  • Fungal Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Lipopeptides
  • Mycoses / drug therapy
  • Mycoses / microbiology
  • Peptides, Cyclic / chemistry
  • Peptides, Cyclic / pharmacology
  • Peptides, Cyclic / therapeutic use*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Echinocandins
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Lipopeptides
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Anidulafungin
  • echinocandin B
  • Caspofungin