All serious fungal infections need appropriate antifungal therapy for successful patient outcome. Only a few classes of antifungal drugs are available, so the emergence of resistance to single drug classes and now multidrug resistance greatly hampers patient management. Azole resistance among Candida and Aspergillus species is one of the greatest challenges to clinical success, followed by echinocandin and multidrug resistance among some Candida species, especially Candida glabrata. The spread of agriculturally derived azole-resistant Aspergillus fumigatus and emerging threats such as multidrug resistant Candida auris are also alarming. The molecular mechanisms that cause drug resistance are naturally occurring in less susceptible species and are acquired in strains of susceptible organisms.
Drug resistance mechanisms include altered drug-target interactions, reduced cellular drug concentrations mediated by drug efflux transporters, and permeability barriers associated with biofilms. Although C auris is inherently multidrug resistant, other strains typically develop resistance through stepwise selection of multiple drug-resistance mechanisms. Cellular stress induced by drug treatment promotes adaptation, which contributes to breakthrough resistance. Drug exposure also drives the emergence of resistance. An effective antifungal stewardship programme is essential to control drug resistance, and should incorporate rapid fungal diagnostics, therapeutic drug monitoring, and clinical intervention teams. The development of better diagnostic tools and strategies that allow targeted use of antifungals is essential to preserve drug effectiveness.