Drugs Medical

Fifty million Indians suffer from fungal diseases


HQ Team

January 4, 2023: More than 50 million Indians suffer from fungal diseases and 10% belong to the potentially dangerous mould infections, according to researchers from New Delhi and Manchester.

The University of Manchester estimate that 57 million, or  4.4% of the 1.3 billion people who live in India, are likely to be affected.

Vaginal thrush – or yeast infection affected around 24 million women of reproductive age, with repeated attacks.

Hair fungal infection, known as tinea capitis, in school-age children affected a similar number. It causes a painful, infected scalp and leaving many with hair loss.

After the second wave of COVID-19 in India, the country is also grappling with a sudden rise in fungal infections — black, white, and yellow. Fungal infections are common in humans and can be of several types such as mucormycosis, candida, yeast infection, cryptococcus, and histoplasmosis.

Superficial, systemic

Aspergillus infection, Athlete’s foot, Jock itch, ringworm, Coccidioidomycosis, Sporotrichosis and valley fever, are the few of the many deadly diseases caused by fungi.

Symptoms of fungal infection range widely. There is usually a rash with superficial infection, fungal infection within the skin or under the skin may present with a lump and skin changes. Pneumonia-like symptoms or meningitis may occur with a deeper or systemic infection.[

The researchers, including ones from AIIMS New Delhi, Kalyani, West Bengal, and PGIMER, arrived at the figure after gathering data from more than 400 published academic articles.

Major contributors to death were mould infections affecting lungs and sinuses, affecting over 250,000 people.  Another 1,738,400 people had chronic aspergillosis and 3.5 million with serious allergic lung mould disease.

About one million are thought to have potentially blinding fungal eye disease and nearly 200,000 with had mucormycosis or Black mould, according to a statement from University of Manchester.

“There have been major diagnostic improvements in recent years, with public health services in India is catching up with private hospitals in terms of capability,” said Prof. David Denning at the University of Manchester and Global Action For Fungal Disease.

“However, fungal disease continues to be a threat to  public health and a cause of significant  morbidity and mortality representing a considerable socioeconomic burden to those who are infected by them,” he said.

Huge burden

The total burden due to fungal diseases is huge but under-appreciated, Dr Animesh Ray of AIIMS in Delhi, the lead author of the article, said.

“While tuberculosis affects less than three million people in a year in India, the number of Indians affected by fungal disease are several times higher.”

Prof Denning said there remain large parts of India with limited diagnostic capability, as evidenced by researchers’ inability to estimate some important diseases such as histoplasmosis and fungal asthma in children.

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