Objectives: Little is known about the fungal colonization of the esophagus. Since alcoholic liver disease (ALD) patients are prone to fungal esophagitis, we have investigated the esophageal fungal colonization of this patient group. Methods: One hundred consecutive ALD patients were enrolled in this prospective study. 22 patients with dyspeptic symptoms acted as controls. After taking an oropharyngeal swab, patients underwent an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and surface material was obtained from the esophagus for direct smears and culture. Results: In the ALD group pseudohyphae were found in 21.5% and yeast forms in 6.4% of the direct smears. The culture was positive in 40.8% of the ALD patients, the isolated strains were: 30 C. albicans, 2 C. kefyr, 2 C. krusei, 1 C. zeylanoides and in 3 cases the species could not be identified. 41.9% of ALD patients and 13.6% of control patients (p=0.013) had fungi in their esophagus. Significantly more ALD patients had fungal esophagitis than in the control group (19.3% vs. 0%, p = 0.021), the rate of fungal colonization was also higher, but the difference was not significant (22.5% vs. 13.6%). A significantly higher rate of fungal esophagitis and esophageal colonization was found in patients with fungi in their oropharyngeal swabs (p = 0.00001). Conclusions: Fungal colonization of the esophagus is frequent in ALD patients. Its presence might have clinical significance in the case of liver transplantation.
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