Purpose: Candida is the most common cause of opportunistic mucosal infections in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive women. We had observed an apparent correlation between the severity of immunodeficiency and the site of mucosal candida infection. The current study was designed to determine whether significant correlations existed between the sites of mucosal candida infection and the degree of immunodeficiency, as determined by subsets of lymphocyte populations.
Patients and methods: The subjects in this study are 66 HIV-seropositive women evaluated by members of the Brown University Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Program during the 3-year period, September 1, 1986, through August 30, 1989. All patients had thorough clinical evaluations and relevant laboratory studies at defined intervals. All patients with CD4 lymphocyte counts below 0.2 X 10(9)/L received zidovudine therapy as soon as it became available. After July 1988, all patients with CD4 counts below 0.2 X 10(9)/L received prophylaxis against Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. All patients were counseled about HIV infection, its modes of transmission, and the early symptoms of opportunistic infections.
Results: The longitudinal data demonstrated that candida often infected vaginal mucosa when there was no significant reduction in CD4 lymphocyte counts. Candida infection of the oropharyngeal mucosa was associated with highly significant reductions in CD4 lymphocyte counts. Esophageal candidiasis occurred only with advanced immunodeficiency associated with CD4 counts below 0.1 X 10(9)/L.
Conclusions: Candida mucosal infections occur in a hierarchical pattern in women with HIV infection. Determination of the basis for the differences in susceptibility to candida of the vaginal, oropharyngeal, and esophageal mucosal surfaces will require further studies.