DEADLY FUNGAL INFECTIONS—A Potential Epidemic!

I’ve written blogs about deadly bacteria and viruses in the past, and those are the MH900427618organisms most often responsible for deadly outbreaks. BUT, currently there’s an equally deadly disease spreading across North America. In fact, US and Canadian healthcare agencies have labeled it a deadly outbreak.

This infection is fungal in origin, from the Cryptococcus family, and it usually affects the lungs because the fungal spores are airborne and inhaled. But the infection can spread to other organs of the body if not treated appropriately.

These deadly cryptococcal infections are caused by either of two types of MH900438746Cryptococcus fungi: Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii.

In the absence of therapy, the infection quickly spreads to the brain and other organs, often with fatal results. Even with therapy, the disease is sometimes fatal. About a third of those infected die from the disease.

MH900321126The treatment is antifungal drug therapy, a painful infusion that is given daily over a period of months. At times, the therapy fails and patients may be forced to undergo corrective surgery.

The disease was first detected in 1999 when hospitals in Vancouver Island, Canada saw a sudden spike in cryptococcal cases. By the next year, veterinary hospitals were seeing a similar spike in animal cases.

It was not until 2002 that the increased incidence of the fungal disease was seen in individuals outside of Vancouver Island and in people who had never visited there.  By 2007, more than 200 cases were identified across Canada and the infection spread south across the US border.

A 2010 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported cases not only in humans, but also in domesticated pets and other animals in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Hawaii. The death rate in the Canadian cases has been reported to be about 10%, but there is a dramatic 33% fatal rate for the cases reported in the US. Researchers are still puzzled by the increased mortality rate of the US cases.

Cryptococcus fungal infections are usually found in warmer climates and C. gattii, the42-15151297 more prevalent of the cryptococcal infections, often exists in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.

Researchers are concerned that this fungal infection has been Autumn Foliage Along a Calm Lake Watersmeet, Michigan, USAfound so far north. The cool, dry weather of North America should not be favorable for such an outbreak, and they wonder if global warming is contributing to the disease migration.

Of particular concern is that, in contrast to bacterial and viral infections, fungal infections usually develop over a long period of time and sometimes reappear even after successful treatment, making it a perfect biological agent to transform into epidemic proportions.

Healthcare agencies historically don’t focus on potential epidemics from fungalMH900448633 infections, and that may be the most deadly aspect of this outbreak. Clinicians often look first to bacterial and viral assaults before diagnosing disease as fungal attacks.

Fortunately, increased awareness at the local and regional levels in the US has produced changes in policies to include the possibility of fungal infections as pandemics, and early diagnostic considerations are being implemented.

However, much work still needs to be done to develop better, safer and more effective drug treatments and preventive vaccines for the increased incidence of these fungal infections.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Cryptococcosis, Cryptococcus Infection Outbreak, Deadly Cryptococcus Infections, Deadly Fungal Attacks, Fungal Attacks, Fungal Infection Epidemic, Fungal Infection Outbreak, Fungal Infection Pandemic, Superbug Epidemic, Superbugs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to DEADLY FUNGAL INFECTIONS—A Potential Epidemic!

  1. Jim,
    Viruses, bacteria, and now fungus. Lots of bad things to watch out for, and all too small to see. In each category there are probably as many “good” ones as “bad” ones, often depending on specific locations. Is the world getting more dangerous, or has our current communications technology allowed us to count more occurrences? Maybe this explains the lure of a desert island.
    Walt.

  2. JP McLean says:

    I remember reading about these fungal infections a few years ago. Until I read your post, I’d happily forgotten about them. I say “happily” because I live close to the affected areas and I really don’t want to move. Maybe in your next post you can write about some deadly horrible infection that’s running amok in eastern locales?

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