Climate change enables spread of fungal diseases in U.S., experts warn

Fungal infections are spreading outside their local areas due to climate change, and can easily be mistaken for viral and bacterial lung infections, experts warn.  Photo by MCSA Joshua Adam Nuzzo/US Navy

Fungal infections are spreading outside their local areas due to climate change, and can easily be mistaken for viral and bacterial lung infections, experts warn. Photo by MCSA Joshua Adam Nuzzo/US Navy

Nov. 21 (UPI) — Climate change in temperature and precipitation is causing certain fungal infections of the lungs to become more common in the United States, and doctors often miss the diagnosis.

According to two experts – including Dr. Tom M. Chiller, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, which focuses on fungal infections — whose description was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Chiller and Dr. George R. Thompson III, the main author of the description, who deals with the care of patients with invasive fungal infections, said that their goal is to strengthen the care of doctors because such fungal diseases, known as mycoses, can burn the lungs and easily. mistaken for viral and bacterial lung infections.

And this leads to delays in proper treatment and the use of unnecessary, ultimately ineffective antibiotics, they said. They called for national surveillance, better reporting of fungal infections and a push for a vaccine to prevent the infection.

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Expert commentary focuses on the geographic distribution and risk of the three most common fungal diseases in North America: histoplasmosis, blastomycosis and coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley fever.

Symptoms of these three diseases can include fever, chills, cough, night sweats and fatigue, and cause lung infections similar to pneumonia, Thompson and Chiller said.

Although these three fungal diseases tend to live in specific areas of the US that are suitable for their survival, recently some cases are being found “outside their known areas, taking doctors and patients by surprise ,” Thompson said in a news release.

Valley fever, for example, has been found in Nebraska, as well as Washington state, more than its hot spots in California and Arizona, according to the report.

This fungal infection, caused by coccidioides bacteria, can cause symptoms such as fever, cough and fatigue, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fungi are often found in soil, and their spores can be released into the air by anything that disturbs the soil, such as agriculture, construction or wind — and then inhaled.

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“It is possible that pathogens are much more common than we first thought. There is an increasing likelihood that doctors who are not familiar with these pathogens will encounter them during ts’ their daily functioning,” said Thompson, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California. Davis, School of Medicine.

He has a joint appointment in the departments of internal medicine and medical microbiology and immunology, and the division of infectious diseases.

Although fungal infections are “increasing in reach and frequency,” the reviewers said that guidelines on pneumonia from the American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America do not provide specific recommendations for diagnosis or treatment. – and many doctors may have little experience in recognizing it. and cure them.

Also, diagnostic panels commonly used to diagnose respiratory infections do not include fungal infections; and serum antigen tests and antigen tests used to detect them are only available from certain laboratories, the release said.

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Even in traditional areas for these fungal diseases, underdiagnosis is common, experts said in their explanation.

About 20% of pneumonia cases in parts of California and Arizona are caused by Valley fever, they said, but it often takes more than three weeks after symptoms start to get a proper diagnosis — and prevention. – diseases are prescribed inappropriately in more than 70. % of these patients.

It can take even longer to diagnose histoplasmosis and blastomycosis, the commentators added.

In the United States, Histoplasma, the fungus that causes histoplasmosis, mainly lives in the Midwest and East, especially in the areas around the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys. The CDC says.

However, experts said it has now been found as far north as Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Alberta, Canada.

In October, the World Health Organization published its first global list of “fungal priority pathogens”, attempting to prioritize fungi that cause infections due to drug resistance or other problems. and creating effective policies.

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