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The dangers of human fungal diseases

The report, together with the warning, comes from the Microbiology Society. The report, titled “Human Fungal Diseases,” indicates that over one billion people suffer from fungal infections. This ranges from the relatively minor, like athlete’s foot, ringworm and thrush, to serious invasive fungal infections of the blood and organs. Serious fungal infections cause up to 1.5 million deaths worldwide each year. Fungi commonly causing these infections live on humans (such as Candida species) or in the environment for example: Aspergillus, Cryptococcus and Pneumocystis species.) Aspergillus, for example, can cause pulmonary Aspergillosis in those with weak or compromised immune systems.

In addition, fungal diseases affect agriculture and thus food security. Sources of fungal infections occur within the outside environment, within the home, and there are also risks from improperly prepared pharmaceutical products. In this context, I have previously written: “The contamination risk posed by fungi to pharmaceutical products is greater than the level of industrial and academic interest would suggest.”

The Microbiology Society, a U.K. based microbiology organization, is concerned that fungal infections are an overlooked health concern and this area is not receiving appropriate funding or medical attention. The Society pinpoints: “potentially life-threatening fungal infections, such as invasive candidiasis blood infections and aspergillosis respiratory infection, which affect millions of immunocompromised patients, such as HIV/AIDS and chemotherapy patients”, as one area that has not received sufficient backing.

The organization notes there have been some advances in antifungal therapies. However, there is a significant problem of access to treatment in poorer countries. There are also concerns with the ability to make an accurate diagnosis in many health services. In addition to this, as with bacteria, there is a growing resistance from certain fungi to drugs. Many antifungal drugs face limitations, including drug resistance, harmful side effects, negative interactions with other drugs, and an inability to be administered orally.

Speaking about the issues, Professor Neil Gow, who is the President of the Microbiology Society warned: “Serious fungal infections have remained somewhat off the radar of the public and policy-makers, despite their high burden.”

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