Strategies for managing systemic fungal infection and the place of itraconazole

Michael Potter
Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy 2005, 56 Suppl 1: i49-i54
Systemic fungal infections are an increasing cause of mortality and morbidity in patients with haematological malignancies and certain other conditions associated with profound immunosuppression. The majority of such infections are caused by Aspergillus and Candida species. In recent years, the number of available drugs effective in the therapy of these difficult infections has expanded. Large clinical trials have been performed in different settings such as prophylaxis, empirical and first-line therapy. For prophylaxis, the azoles fluconazole and itraconazole have been most widely studied. These azoles are available in both oral and intravenous formulations. Itraconazole has a wide spectrum of activity including Aspergillus, Candida albicans and non-albicans species. Two large studies comparing the use of itraconazole with fluconazole for primary prophylaxis in high-risk patients who were recipients of allogeneic stem cell transplants have recently been reported. These have confirmed that itraconazole is effective in this setting in reducing the rate of systemic fungal infections. However, there are concerns with regard to increased toxicity and the potential for drug interactions with itraconazole compared with fluconazole. In the empirical setting, large randomized studies support the use of caspofungin and liposomal amphotericin B. Voriconazole and lipid-associated amphotericin B have been shown to be effective in first-line therapy and caspofungin for salvage. New approaches to management include efforts at improving diagnosis, combination antifungal therapy and treatment strategies for emerging moulds.

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