Malassezia furfur colonization of central venous catheters has been implicated in the pathogenesis of systemic infections with this lipid-dependent yeast. To determine the incidence of catheter colonization in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), 25 consecutively removed percutaneous central venous catheters were examined by rinsing the lumen with saline and plating the rinse fluid on Sabouraud dextrose agar overlaid with olive oil. M furfur grew from the lumina of eight catheters (32%). Surveillance skin cultures were performed in the NICU on two occasions to determine the prevalence of skin colonization with M furfur. M furfur was found on the skin of 64% of the infants. In contrast, only 3% (1/33) of healthy, nonhospitalized infants 2 to 8 weeks of age had skin colonized with M furfur. During the 5-month study period, two NICU infants had evidence of systemic infection with M furfur. We conclude that M furfur frequently colonizes both the skin and percutaneous central venous catheters in NICU infants. Further studies are needed to determine the relationship between skin colonization and catheter colonization, and the factors contributing to systemic disease with this organism.

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