A brain infection from a fungus most people inhale daily nearly killed a man

A brain infection from a fungus most people inhale daily nearly killed a man

Despite having survived throat cancer, David Erwin was not improving.

Erwin, who is now 60 years old, completed treatment in 2020, according to the Wall Street Journal. Even after his doctors gave him the all-clear, he continued to have excruciating back pain and partial paralysis, he reported.

A neurosurgeon would remove a worrisome tumor from his brain months later. The tumor was not cancer, but rather a common fungus: Aspergillus fumigatus, a type of mold that grows everywhere from flower beds to carpets.

Most individuals inhale mold spores unknowingly. Experts in public health state that there is no point in trying to avoid breathing in Aspergillus because it thrives both outside and inside homes.

But for immunocompromised individuals, such as Erwin, whose immune system was weakened by chemotherapy, these fungi offer a greater threat. In the case of Erwin, Aspergillus inhabited not only his brain, but also his lungs and spine.

Erwin barely survived his sickness, but according to a recent report from the World Health Organization, the fungus that infected his brain and body remains a threat.

Fungi pose a severe threat to public health.

Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a list of 19 species of fungi that represent a hazard to public health.

Aspergillus, a fungus that can cause meningitis, and two species associated with yeast infections were given the highest priority level. The purpose of the priority list is to provide a ranking for future research and medical development, as there are only four kinds of antifungal medications now accessible.

Tracking and treating fungal infections has also proven to be a challenge on a worldwide scale, as many of the tests used to diagnose them are not readily accessible. According to the WHO report, the majority of diagnostic tests for fungus are expensive and consequently reserved for high-income countries.

Patients who are already gravely ill, such as those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, and chronic lung infections, are particularly susceptible to fungal infections. According to the WSJ, a growing proportion of people are immunocompromised as a result of therapies such as chemotherapy or drugs taken with organ transplants.

Infectious fungi in the U.S.

Although it is known that thousands of Americans are hospitalized annually due to fungal infections, the United States lacks a dedicated surveillance system to track illnesses caused by fungi.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 75,000 persons are hospitalized annually in the United States due to fungal infections, with at least 20% of these illnesses being caused by Aspergillus mold.

As the disease load only rose during the COVID-19 pandemic, the actual impact of fungal infections may be substantially bigger. People who are immunocompromised by COVID-19 or the medications used to treat it have an increased chance of developing secondary infections, such as aspergillosis, but they are not generally counted.

According to surveillance by the National Vital Statistics System, more than 7,000 deaths in 2021 were at least largely caused by fungal diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended patients and healthcare professionals to consider fungus as a potential explanation for infections that do not respond to treatment last month, which could lead to more diagnoses in the future.

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