Among hospitalized patients, infections with the fungus Candida are common and deadly.
In the United States, 25,000 cases occur each year, and nearly 45% of infected patients die. But a new study reports that the death rate can be cut by 20% if an infectious disease specialist takes charge of such cases.
These specialists are more likely to follow evidence-based treatment practices, which the study says is probably why patients do better.
"Even uncomplicated versions of these infections are actually quite dangerous and require a detailed and well-thought out approach to make sure that people do well," said senior author Dr. Andrej Spec, director of the Invasive Fungal Infections Clinic at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
"Infectious disease doctors are the ones who have the expertise to best treat these infections," he added in a university news release.
But calling in a specialist has not been routine, even in hospitals with these doctors at the ready, the researchers noted.
When doctors called in an infectious disease expert, 29% of patients died within 90 days. Among patients not seen by a specialist, nearly 51% died, the study found.
After taking into account risk factors such as age and underlying disease, using a specialist lowered the risk of death 20%, according to the study.
Researchers said that when a specialist was called in, patients were more likely to get antifungal medications and were more likely to be checked for serious complications, such as infections of the heart.
Infectious disease experts also were more likely to change catheters used to give IVs, because the fungus lives in these catheters.
The report was recently published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
There's more about hospital infections at the Health.Gov.