Yeasts (also called sprouts) are microorganisms and are significantly larger than bacteria, for example. The most medicinally important yeasts are Candida (mostly Candida albicans) and Malassezia furfur. Candida albicans colonizes the skin, mucous membranes and digestive tract in a large part of healthy people, but without causing symptoms. As so-called opportunistic pathogens, many yeasts usually only cause symptoms under certain circumstances, such as immune deficiency (e.g. due to diabetes mellitus, chemotherapy or AIDS) or antibiotic therapy. The situation is similar with Malassezia furfur, which colonizes the skin of most people without being noticed. In some cases, however, the fungus causes a blotchy, brownish discoloration that turns white under UV exposure (pityriasis versicolor).

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How contagious are yeasts?

Yeasts such as Candida albicans cannot be counted as a classic highly contagious infectious disease in that a large part of the healthy population already carries the pathogen on their skin or mucous membranes without becoming symptomatic. Symptoms in the sense of a real infection usually only arise in the context of a weak immune system in the body, when the fungus can multiply unchecked through immunodeficiency or antibiotic therapy.

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  • Yeast fungi on the skin

Only under these conditions do typical symptoms develop, such as whitish coatings on the oral mucosa, itchy red inflammation in skin folds such as under the breast, nail wall inflammation or a vaginal fungus with itchy, crumbly discharge. Basically, yeasts such as Candida albicans can be transmitted via smear infections such as kissing or sexual intercourse via fungal mucous membranes. Usually, however, this transmission does not lead to symptoms; rather, the fungus inhabits the skin and mucous membranes without causing damage. However, transmission without direct, close interpersonal contact is not common (unlike infectious diseases such as measles).

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Read more on the subject at: Fungal diseases

How contagious is the yeast during sexual intercourse?

Yeasts can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, but are not considered a sexually transmitted disease in the narrower sense. The majority of women will suffer from vaginal thrush at least once in their life. Since fungi feel particularly comfortable in the warm, moist environment of the vagina, the vagina of healthy women is not infrequently colonized with yeasts such as Candida without symptoms occurring.
Vaginal fungus is more often the result of an unchecked proliferation of yeasts (for example, under antibiotic treatment) and is only rarely due to infection in the partner. If the vaginal thrush occurs more frequently or is chronic, it may still be useful to treat the partner as well in order to avoid a so-called ping-pong effect (repeated infection due to colonization of the partner).

What might also interest you: Treatment of vaginal thrush

What can you do to prevent yourself from being infected?

In the case of infections with yeasts, it must be borne in mind that these are mostly due to the increase in the body's own, already existing fungal colonization, and less to the infection with other affected persons. For example, condoms do not protect against vaginal thrush. However, co-treatment of the partner can be useful in order to avoid a constant ping-pong effect in the event of asymptomatic colonization of the partner. In order to avoid infection in skin folds, the skin should always be dried thoroughly after washing and excessive sweating and rubbing prevented, for example by inserting dry cotton rags.
To prevent vaginal thrush, the genital area should be cleaned once a day with warm water or a pH-neutral washing lotion and then cleaned with a clean towel. When using the toilet, care should be taken to always wipe from front to back to prevent fungus from being introduced into the vagina from the intestine.

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Read more on the topic: Yeast infection

Is a yeast in the intestine contagious?

Yeasts such as Candida albicans often attack the intestinal mucosa even in healthy individuals without causing symptoms. In women, the fungus can also get into the vagina through the closely spaced mouths of the intestine and vagina and cause vaginal fungus there. Even during sexual intercourse, smear infections can transfer the yeast from the intestine to the sexual partner. However, infection is not possible without close interpersonal contact (usually traffic), for example when using a shared toilet.

For further important information please also read: Yeast in the intestine

How is the transmission route?

Basically, yeasts are transmitted through smear and contact infections, i.e. through direct contact from person to person or through contact with pathogen-containing, infectious secretions such as saliva or vaginal secretions. The route by which yeasts are transmitted from person to person depends on the location of the colonization of the fungus. If the yeast is found in the mouth of an infected person, it can be transmitted, for example, by kissing. The fungus can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse if the intestines or vagina are affected. Nevertheless, the vaginal fungus cannot be described as a sexually transmitted disease in the narrower sense (see below).
Transmission via infected skin areas (skin folds such as armpits, groin or the area under the breast are often affected) is also conceivable, but in practice it plays a subordinate role. Even in hospitals, in the worst case, an infection with yeasts such as Candida via contaminated hands of staff or equipment is possible. This particularly affects seriously ill patients in the intensive care unit. In general, however, it is difficult to differentiate whether a new symptomatic infection with yeasts comes from inside the patient (endogenous infection), i.e. whether the patient was previously asymptomatically colonized with Candida and can now multiply unchecked as a result of a weak immune system; or whether the new symptoms can be traced back to the infection from a contact person (exogenous infection).

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