Health Medical Pharma

Invasive fungal infections on the rise

Gram-negative, Chlamydia psittaci bacteria

HQ Team

October 26, 2023: While athlete’s foot and yeast infections are well-known, a new threat is emerging from invasive fungal infections, which can affect vital organs and even be life-threatening.

Hidden fungal threat

According to a report 1 in 4 people have athlete’s foot across the globe, while 3 in 4 women are likely to develop a vaginal yeast infection in their lifetime. But invasive fungal infections, unlike common fungal skin infections, can impact vital organs or the lungs, and they are a growing concern, particularly for immunocompromised individuals. The general lack of awareness has hampered diagnosis and treatment.

The  World Health Organization released its first-ever list of health-threatening fungi in 2022.

The general lack of awareness about these fungi infections has led to misdiagnosis of fungal infections. Experts suggest invasive fungal infections kill up to 1.5 million people per year. This number is similar to deaths caused by tuberculosis per year.

Fungal spores are everywhere in our environment, from compost bins to moldy bread and even garden plants. For most healthy people, these spores pose no risk. However, for those with compromised immune systems such as those who are heavy smokers, have undergone organ transplants, or taking chemotherapy,  inhaling these spores can lead to problems.

The increase in invasive fungal infections can be attributed to more life-saving surgeries and treatments, such as chemotherapy, which can make individuals more susceptible to such infections.

Antifungal resistance

Antifungal resistance, similar to antibiotic resistance, is a growing problem. Some fungi become resistant to antifungal medications, making them harder to treat. This resistance can occur due to low doses of antifungals and is comparable to building immunity, like peanut allergy treatments.

Antifungals are used not only in healthcare but also in agriculture, mainly for flower bulbs to prevent fungal growth. However, when these treated bulbs are planted in gardens, the antifungals can enter the soil, leading to fungi developing resistance.

Common invasive fungal infections

The most prevalent invasive fungal infections are caused by Candida and Aspergillus fungi. Aspergillus affects the lungs, while Candida can spread through the bloodstream, causing infections in various organs, including the eyes, bones, liver, and spleen. These infections can arise from gastrointestinal issues and compromised mucosal integrity.

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