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Is there evidence to support the use of echinocandins for urinary tract infection?


Fungal urinary tract infections (UTIs) are rare among healthy people, but may occur in up to 40% of patients who are hospitalized or have other comorbidities.1 The most common fungal urinary pathogens are Candida species, particularly Candida albicans; it is estimated that 50 to 70% of Candida urinary tract infections are caused by C albicans, while 10 to 35% are caused by Candida glabrata and Candida tropicalis.1-3 Other Candida species, such as Candida krusei and Candida parapsilosis, are less common in urine.

Candida species are normally found in the gastrointestinal tract and the female genital tract, as well as on the skin.2,4 However, in some cases, these organisms may spread to the urinary tract and cause infection. Candiduria may develop via ascending or descending/hematogenous routes.3,5 Fungi may migrate from the genital tract to the urinary tract and infect the bladder and/or kidney, causing cystitis or pyelonephritis. Alternatively, patients with candidemia may experience secondary infection of the kidney; these patients typically do not exhibit symptoms of UTI.  Risk factors for fungal UTI include advanced age, female sex, diabetes, presence of an indwelling urinary catheter, antibiotic therapy, and prior surgical procedures.5

Current Fungal UTI Treatment Recommendations

Patients with asymptomatic candiduria may not require treatment, as the presence of candiduria without symptoms likely signifies colonization, rather than true infection.5 Candiduria typically does not lead to candidemia, except among high-risk patient groups (neutropenic patients, very low-birth-weight infants, and patients undergoing urologic manipulation). In these patients, treatment of asymptomatic candiduria is recommended. Patients with candiduria and symptoms of UTI should also receive antifungal treatment.

Patients with indwelling urinary catheters and candiduria should have their catheters removed or changed as soon as possible; in many cases, catheter removal alone may be sufficient to clear candiduria in asymptomatic patients.1 Fluconazole is the antifungal treatment of choice for Candida UTI; unlike other azole antifungals, this agent achieves high concentrations in the urine, and it is active against many Candida species, including C albicans.5 Unfortunately, many strains of C glabrata exhibit resistance to fluconazole, and fluconazole is not active against C krusei. In patients with fluconazole-resistant C glabrata, treatment with amphotericin B deoxycholate and/or flucytosine is recommended; flucytosine is inactive against C krusei, so for patients infected with this organism, amphotericin B deoxycholate is the treatment of choice. Both amphotericin B and flucytosine are associated with significant toxicities; flucytosine may cause bone marrow toxicity, while amphotericin B is often associated with nephrotoxicity.3 Although lipid formulations of amphotericin B carry a reduced risk of nephrotoxicity, these are not recommended for the treatment of UTI, because they do not achieve adequate concentrations in the urine.3,5

What About Echinocandins?

Echinocandins (caspofungin, micafungin, and anidulafungin) are highly active against most Candida species, including C glabrata and C krusei.5 In addition to their broad-spectrum activity against Candida species, these agents have minimal adverse effects, making them common first-line choices for candidemia and invasive candidiasis. However, current guidelines do not recommend the use of echinocandins for Candida UTI, because these drugs do not achieve significant concentrations in urine. The urinary concentration of caspofungin is only 1.4% of the plasma concentration, and the urinary concentration of micafungin is even lower (0.7% of the plasma concentration).6 Anidulafungin urinary concentrations are <0.1% of plasma concentrations.  Despite these low urinary excretion rates, echinocandins have been used to treat candiduria successfully in some cases.5 The remainder of this article will explore the evidence for echinocandin use in UTI.

Literature Review

A number of case reports and case series have been published describing the use of echinocandins in fungal UTI (Table 1).7-16 Micafungin has been most commonly used, although caspofungin use has also been reported. Most of the patients in these case reports were infected with C glabrata or C albicans. In the majority of cases, echinocandin treatment was successful in eradicating candiduria and resolving symptoms.

It is still unclear how echinocandins may successfully treat UTI despite their poor urinary excretion rates. In the candidiasis treatment guidelines, it is noted that echinocandins may be useful for infection that is localized to the kidneys (ie, infection acquired through hematogenous spread), because they are able to attain good concentrations in renal tissue.5 Authors of one report suggest that, although micafungin has a low urinary excretion rate, it may still be effective in UTI because it achieves plasma concentrations that are high enough to generate therapeutic urinary concentrations.10 These authors measured urinary concentrations of micafungin in 6 patients with fungal UTI and tried to correlate the urinary maximum concentration (Cmax)/minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) ratio to clinical efficacy. Plasma Cmax/MIC ratios ≥4 have been previously correlated with clinical efficacy of micafungin; in this study, the urine Cmax/MIC ratio was ≥4 for all but 1 patient. All patients who attained a urine Cmax/MIC ratio ≥4 had success with micafungin treatment, while the single patient who did not achieve this target experienced therapeutic failure.

Although the majority of patients presented in case reports had success with echinocandin treatment, the overall number of patients studied remains low, and it is possible that negative findings were less likely to be reported and published than positive findings. The preliminary results from these case reports are promising, but further studies are required to establish echinocandins as effective, reliable treatment options for fungal UTI.

Table 1. Summary of reports describing echinocandin use for fungal UTI.

Citation Patient(s) Organism(s) Intervention(s) Outcome
Multani 20197

Case report

62-year-old male with history of liver-kidney transplant presenting with chronic symptomatic candiduria

Systemic and urinary symptoms present, but blood cultures were sterile

C krusei Micafungin 150 mg IV daily for 31 days Cured

After 31 days of therapy, the patient’s systemic and urinary symptoms were completely resolved and no recurrence was reported

Rezai 20178

Case report

6-year-old male with history of Wilms tumor in the kidney presenting with pyelonephritis and systemic symptoms

Blood cultures were negative

C albicans Caspofungin 100 mg IV daily for 4 days

Prior to echinocandin therapy, patient received 2 weeks of fluconazole, but urine cultures remained positive


No relapse within 5 months

Gabardi 20169

Retrospective analysis

33 adults with candiduria or Candida UTI

Concomitant bloodstream infection was present in 3 patients

C albicans (n=13)

C glabrata (n=10)

C parapsilosis (n=2)

C tropicalis (n=2)

C krusei (n=1)

Candida non-albicans (n=1)

Micafungin 100 mg IV daily; mean treatment duration of 12.5 days, median 6 days Urine sterilization was achieved in 81% of patients while receiving micafungin therapy, 78% of patients 2 weeks after micafungin therapy completion, and 75% of patients more than 1 month after therapy completion. Rates of eradication were similar between patients with C albicans and patients with C glabrata or C krusei (92% vs. 78%; p=0.37)
Grau 201610

Prospective observational study

6 adults with Candida UTI who were unable to receive fluconazole or had infection caused by fluconazole-resistant species/strains

Patients had cystitis (n=5) or pyelonephritis and urosepsis (n=1)

C albicans (n=3)

C glabrata (n=2)

C tropicalis (n=1)

Micafungin 75 to 150 mg IV daily

Duration ranged from 6 to 22 days

All patients had resolution of symptoms except for the patient with C tropicalis infection. This patient did not attain the target urinary micafungin concentration to MIC ratio, but still exhibited microbiological eradication. Four patients had microbiological eradication (the other 2 did not have microbiological follow-up)
Kane 201611

Case series

5 adults with urine cultures positive for yeast

No patients had candidemia

C glabrata (n=4)

C albicans (n=1)

Micafungin 100 mg IV daily

Duration ranged from 7 to 14 days


Candiduria was cleared in all patients

Pieralli 201412

Case report

56-year-old woman with severe urinary sepsis C glabrata Micafungin 200 mg IV daily for 25 days Cured

Candiduria and candidemia were cleared after 12 days of micafungin treatment with no recurrence at 4 months

Malani 201013

Case report

64-year-old woman with recurrent pyelonephritis presenting with bilateral costovertebral tenderness and urinary urgency C glabrata Caspofungin 70 mg IV once, then 50 mg IV daily for 14 days Not cured

Urine culture remained positive for C glabrata, and resistance to caspofungin was acquired

Lagrotteria 200714

Case series

3 adults with candiduria

Blood culture positivity not reported

C glabrata (n=2)

C albicans, fluconazole-resistant (n=1)

Micafungin 50 mg IV daily

Duration ranged from 14 to 21 days


Candiduria was resolved and recurrence was not observed

Sobel 200715

Case series

6 adults with symptomatic candiduria

3 patients had candiduria secondary to renal candidiasis and candidemia

C glabrata (n=3)

C albicans (n=1)

C tropicalis (n=1)

Candida species (n=1)

Caspofungin (dose not specified)

Duration ranged from 9 to 28 days

1 patient required 2 courses of caspofungin (9 days and 10 days) due to recurrent pyelonephritis 3 weeks after finishing the first course


Candiduria was resolved in all patients

Schelenz 200616

Case report

71-year-old female with acute renal failure, bilateral ureteric obstruction, and hydronephrosis C glabrata Caspofungin 70 mg IV once, then 50 mg IV daily for 12 days Not cured

Blood and urine became sterile after caspofungin treatment, but infection returned. Patient was eventually cured with a combination of IV liposomal amphotericin B and repeated instillation of conventional amphotericin B into the nephrostomy tube

Abbreviations: IV=intravenous; MIC=minimum inhibitory concentration; UTI=urinary tract infection


Echinocandins are typically not recommended for the treatment of UTI, because they are not well-excreted in the urine.5 However, in some cases, echinocandin therapy may be effective for patients with UTI caused by Candida species. Further studies are required to confirm the preliminary successes seen in case reports: however, echinocandins may be considered as alternative treatment options for patients who are unable to receive recommended therapies for fungal UTI. Out of the available echinocandins, micafungin seems to have the most promising data. Optimal dose and length of therapy for echinocandins in UTI remains to be determined.


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Prepared by:
Laura Koppen, PharmD, BCPS
Clinical Assistant Professor, Drug Information Specialist
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy
August 2019

The information presented is current as of July 8, 2019. This information is intended as an educational piece and should not be used as the sole source for clinical decision-making.

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