Silent Threats You Should Know About Fungal Diseases In Humans
The COVID pandemic has transformed how we perceive infections. It has taken a tremendous toll on everyone’s physical and mental well-being in more than one way. What started as coronavirus has paved the way for various other health issues. We all cannot forget how fungal infections of different shades of black, white and yellow shook the entire world during the pandemic? Unfortunately, black fungus is not the first fungal disease with a deadly consequence. Several other fungal diseases in humans existed way before black fungus that went unnoticed.
Even black fungus or mucormycosis is not new to the microbiology world. Due to the impact of bacterial viral infections and the severity of antimicrobial resistance, fungal diseases in humans are often underestimated. Here, we will focus on why fungal diseases in humans pose a secret threat to health and well-being and discuss the process through which fungus affects the human body.
Dangers Of Fungal Diseases In Humans:
Usually, when we think of fungal diseases in humans, mushrooms, molds, unpleasant looking nails, and athletes' feet come to our mind. But fungal infections are much more than that. A single fungus is capable of infecting multiple tissues in a human being. Can you believe that more than 1.6 million people die of fungal disease every year? This is more than the death rate of malaria.
However, despite the alarming rate of infection and severity of fungal diseases in humans, they are often overlooked. This is because they develop gradually over time and worsen if not diagnosed and treated on time. Unfortunately, it affects low-income people who do not have proper access to water and sanitation. Other types of people who are likely to get involved are those with a fragile immune system.
What Are The Harmful Diseases Caused By Fungi?
There are approximately 1.5 million fungal species, out of which about 300 are said to cause disease in humans. Candida, aspergillus, pneumocystis and cryptococcus are the most common species that cause serious fungal diseases in humans. In fact, they are referred to as the four big fungal genera by the WHO. Mainly, people who have a weak immune system or, in other words, immunocompromised are highly prone to severe fungal diseases.
Fungal infections that conquer your blood, lungs and other organs cause severe life-threatening consequences. Although several antifungal medicines are available in the market, it is harder to treat fungal infections that have started spreading in the bloodstream and lungs. This condition is known as invasive fungal disease.
Fungal diseases can occur primarily due to fungi or due to opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections are fairly common in patients with compromised immune systems affected with HIV, AIDS, cancer and those undergoing treatment with immunosuppressants after organ transplant. Since the number of immunocompromised people has increased, the risk of opportunistic infections has also increased.
Who Is At Risk Of Fungal Diseases?
Fungal infections can occur for anybody irrespective of age or disease condition. Infections like athlete’s foot, nail infections, etc. are treatable and do not seriously impact the body. However, invasive fungal diseases are not that easy to treat. Continuous treatment with antifungal medicines, in the long run, is also not advisable, and the fungi start resisting the drug over time.
Before concluding whether you are at risk of severe fungal disease, consider some crucial factors. Before that, you need to know what kind of population is at a greater risk of fungal disease. People more likely to bear the threats of fungal infections have either of the conditions:
- Old age
- Critical illness
- Organ transplantation
- Immunosuppressant therapy
- Frequent antibiotic therapy
- Frequent use of catheters or other medical devices
- Antifungal resistance
- Pre-existing lung problems
How Does Fungus Affect The Human Body?
Some of these fungal organisms exist in the environment without causing any harm. But they harm patients once they come in contact through inhalation or other routes. For example, aspergillus is a fungal organism that is present as molds in the environment. But once they are inhaled, they attack the lungs and spread to other organs, decreasing the possibility of survival in immunocompromised patients. Immunocompromised patients suffering from blood cancer and admitted to the hospital for an organ transplant are more prone to this fungal disease.
People who already have lung problems are at a higher risk of getting chronic pulmonary aspergillosis that destroys the lungs in the long run. Aspergillus and other similar fungi are airborne, and they cause allergies in the lungs and sinuses and worsen asthma and cystic fibrosis.
Other fungi called candida species exist in the body without causing harm. However, it sometimes causes infections in the mouth and vagina. Although this infection is treatable, it disrupts the patient's quality of life. Up to 50-75% of women suffer at least one episode of vaginal infection before menopause.
Be Aware And Stay Protected:
Although fungal diseases in humans are overlooked, it is evident that the threat has been increasing rapidly in the past decades. It will continue to increase in the future with new challenges and we need to be prepared for it. If you have a compromised immune system, pay attention to your symptoms. Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you fall ill. Do not try to self-medicate. You need a proper diagnosis to avoid unwanted risk in the future.