BACKGROUND: The frequency of bloodstream infection by Candida species has dramatically increased in recent years. Many of bloodstream infections caused by candida arise from an endogenous source of mucosal colonization, as well as exogenously from the hospital environment. We analyzed the prevalence of Candida species isolated from blood cultures, and compared it to those of all other clinical specimens, and those of the hospital environment. METHODS: Identification of Candida species was performed on isolates from blood cultures (159 strains), from cultures of clinical specimens other than bloods (1,609 strains) and from cultures of the hospital environment (30 strains). All candida isolates were recovered between January 1997 and June 1998 at Chonnam University Hospital. Candida surveillance cultures of the hands and nares of 77 medical personnel were performed using CHROMagar Candida. RESULTS: Among the Candida species isolated from the blood cultures, C. parapsilosis was the most frequently isolated (35.2%), followed by C. albicans (29.6%), C. glabrata (9.4%), and C. tropicalis (8.8%). The Candida species frequently isolated from clinical specimens other than bloods were C. albicans (52.6%), C. glabrata (19.1%), and C. tropicalis (15.3%). While C. parapsilosis was not frequently isolated from clinical specimens other than blood (3.4%), it was the most frequent Candida species isolated from the hands of medical personnel. Sixteen (20.8%) out of 77 medical personnel were found to harbor C. parapsilosis on their hands. CONCLUSION: These results suggest that it is possible that most of the Candida species causing bloodstream infections are from mucosal colonized strains, but that C. parapsilosis may be acquired from exogenous sources.