Fungal infections are underestimated by most people
Fungal infections in humans are often underestimated. This is shown by a new study by the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. According to this, 1.7 billion people worldwide have suffered from a fungal infection at least once in their lives. While the pathogens are clearly visible on nail or skin zones, fungi inside the body can lead to diverse and diffuse complaints that can be life-threatening. According to the study, around 1.5 million people die of a yeast infection every year. As the researchers led by Gordon Brown in "Science Translational Medicine" report, fungal infections cause at least as many deaths as tuberculosis or malaria each year. However, combating the infections poses great challenges because they are often difficult to diagnose and treat.
Fungus infections often underestimated Athlete's foot accounted for the largest share of the 1.7 billion people affected, the researchers said. Every fifth adult suffers from itchy rash from fungi at least once. Nail fungus occurs every tenth. In the age group of over 70 years, the fungal infection affects every second person. Mycoses of the skin, hair and nails are mostly caused by so-called dermatophytes (filamentous fungi). Unless there is a chronic infection, the fungal infection should be treated well. Medical professionals advise a doctor in particular if you suspect nail fungus, as the pathogen can spread unhindered and, in the worst case, can even grow inside and cause poisoning if the fungus is not treated.
According to the study, 50 to 70 percent of women of childbearing age are at least once affected by a fungal infection of the vaginal mucous membranes. Around 75 million women suffer four times a year from the infection, which is mostly caused by yeasts of the “Candida” genus.
Fungal infections can be life-threatening Less known are so-called invasive fungal infections, in which the pathogens penetrate the body and cause life-threatening diseases. Due to the diverse and sometimes diffuse symptoms of an invasive fungal infection, diagnosis and treatment are often difficult. Brown and his team often found mortality rates in excess of 50 percent despite therapies for these conditions.
The most threatening invasive infections are triggered by four different types of fungi: cryptococci, pneumocystis, candida and watering can mold. Cryptococcosis is a fungal infection with cryptococci, usually “Cryptococcus neoformans” in humans, which affects more than a million people every year. Depending on the region, mortality is between 20 and 70 percent. The primary infection is often without symptoms.
Aspergillosis is when the infection is caused by watering can mold. This type of mushroom belongs to the genus "Aspergillus" and primarily affects the lungs, but also the skin, ears and sinuses. In rare cases, metastases occur in the heart, kidney and central nervous system. Every year, more than 200,000 people develop aspergillosis, which is fatal in 30 to 95 percent of the cases.
The Pliz genus "Pneumocystis" lives as an extracellular parasite in the lungs and causes severe inflammation there. Of the more than 400,000 people affected annually, 20 to 80 percent die from the disease.
An infection with the fungus of the genus "Candida" (yeast) is called candidosis. In healthy people, the infestation is usually reduced to skin or mucous membranes. If the immune system is weakened, the pathogens can also affect the internal organs, which, according to the study, leads to death in 46 to 75 percent of the approximately 400,000 people affected annually.
Fungal infections are promoted by immune deficiency and medication. The immune system of a healthy person has effective defense mechanisms against fungal infections. For this reason, the Scottish researchers suspect that the spread of the HI virus (HIV) and AIDS is the main cause of the high mortality rate from invasive fungal infections in recent decades. In addition, drugs that suppress the immune system and increasingly invasive medical interventions would be used more and more. Immunosuppressants - drugs that reduce the functions of the immune system - are used, for example, for autoimmune diseases or after organ transplants to prevent rejection reactions.
Despite the dramatic situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far not launched a program against fungal infections, the researchers criticize. Few countries have monitored mushroom activity, and public health research in the United States and the UK only shows 1.4 to 2.5 percent of their budget for medical mushroom research. "Regardless of the urgent need for effective diagnostic tests and safe, effective new drugs and vaccines, research into fungal infections in humans lags behind that of diseases caused by other pathogens," the researchers complain. (Sb)
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