Monday, May 24, 2021

Deadly fungal epidemics are taking place across the Globe

Recently, the trade media, followed by the generalists, have rushed to publish different articles about deadly fungal infections in the United States. The figures put forward show tens of thousands of people hospitalized each year following this type of infection. According to the same sources, millions more are currently receiving treatment without being admitted to hospital.

Concerns are now being felt around the world, with experts fearing that these sometimes deadly fungi are becoming more and more common. If infected, symptoms may be mild at first and last for months, after which the infection can become devastating for various vital organs such as the lungs.


What worries physicians all the more is that we do not yet know much about many pathogenic fungi and their sometimes disastrous effects on human health, emphasizing the importance of their continued study and the development of new ones. antifungal treatments.


For example, the journal Scientific American  reports that a fungal infection called coccidiodomycosis, better known as valley fever (or San Joaquin Valley fever), is on the increase in the United States, causing symptoms such as fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, and night sweats. It is a mycotic infection caused by the fungus Coccidioïdes immitis, or by Coccidioïdes posadasii .


A Spread Favored By Drought

According to reports, infection with these fungi can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, requiring antifungal treatment and hospitalization in severe cases. It is very common in the southwestern United States, but it is rarely seen in densely populated areas.

Fortunately, only about 1 in 100 cases are potentially fatal. But experts say the fungus is likely to spread at an accelerated rate in the near future. “The coccidioid really likes moist soils; it does not form spores and therefore is not particularly infectious,” George Thompson, co-director of the Valley Fever Center at the University of California Davis , told SciAm . “It is during periods of drought that spores form. And we've had a tremendous amount of drought over the past decade". It should however be noted that rigorous studies will be necessary to define the exact causes of this accelerated propagation, drought being certainly one among many others.


After a period of drought, the spores that have formed can then easily be blown away for hundreds of kilometers. Another fungus, Sporothrix brasiliensis , is also spreading rapidly in Brazil, first moving from feral cats to humans through scratches, bites and close contact.


15 Times More Cases In 15 Years ...

Brazil had only 759 cases of Sporothrix brasiliensis infection in 2004, but the situation quickly changed: in 2020, the number of cases has risen to over 12,000! “This epidemic will not stop,” said Flávio Queiroz-Telles, doctor and associate professor at the Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil. "It is in full expansion".

The fungus ( S. brasiliensis ) has already spread across much of northern South America - and it is possible that it has already reached the United States. "In densely populated centers, where there are a lot of feral cats, you might see an increase in extremely sick cats roaming the streets," John Rossow, a CDC veterinarian , told SciAm . "And since we Americans can't avoid helping stray animals, I imagine we're going to see a lot of transmissions to humans."

“Mushrooms are alive, they adapt,” Rossow adds. “Out of millions of species, only about 300 that we know of cause human disease - so far. This represents a great potential for novelty and difference, for organizations that have existed for a billion years”. Fungal infections are therefore a serious and growing threat, for reasons still uncertain, which will certainly have to be closely monitored in the coming years. 

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