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Friday, December 2, 2022

The World Health Organization has published a list of the top fungal health threats

The World Health Organization has produced a list of fungi that pose a threat to human health in its most ambitious effort to attract attention to a constellation of infections that have grown increasingly common, resistant to treatment, and lethal.

The WHO identified 19 invasive fungal illnesses, four of which it deemed “important priorities,” that kill 1.3 million people and contribute to the deaths of another five million each year. Many of these deaths occur in persons who have HIV, cancer, TB, or other underlying health disorders that make them susceptible to infection.

The mortality toll from fungal infections is likely to be far higher, according to health authorities, because many hospitals and clinics, particularly in poorer nations, lack the diagnostic instruments to detect them.

The World Health Organization framed the study as a call to action, and officials expressed optimism that it would foster a stronger feeling of urgency among governments, medication makers, clinicians, and health policy specialists.

According to the World Health Organization, climate change has aided in expanding the geographic range and prevalence of several illnesses. The coronavirus pandemic has also resulted in an increase in fungal infections among Covid patients who end up in critical care units, where hardy organisms like Candida auris may thrive before invading the body via breathing tubes and intravenous lines.

Mucormycosis, a rare but tenacious disease known as “the black fungus,” has hounded hundreds of Covid users in India, requiring disfiguring face surgery to eradicate the infections.

Antifungal drugs, like harmful microorganisms that develop and grow resistant to antibiotics because to their misuse in humans and agriculture, have been losing their curative punch in recent years. Scientists have linked increased rates of resistance to Aspergillus fumigatus, a common mould that may be lethal to persons with compromised immune systems, to the widespread use of fungicides on cash crops such as grapes, maize, and cotton.

Treatment becomes much more difficult after a fungal infection reaches the bloodstream: Fungi of the candida family, for example, have a 30% mortality rate in the bloodstream. This percentage is significantly higher in individuals with Candida auris, one of the four “important priority” fungus included in the World Health Organization study. The fungus, a yeast that was discovered in Japan in 2009, has spread to more than a dozen countries and is frequently resistant to more than one medicine.

There are just four kinds of medications that treat fungal infections, with “very few new ones in the pipeline,” according to Dr. Hatim Sati, another World Health Organization expert who contributed to the paper. Many existing medications, he claims, are so toxic that some people cannot use them.

According to Dr. David Denning, CEO of the advocacy group Global Action for Fungal Infections, inadequate surveillance was at the foundation of this negligence.

Patients often go untreated because of a failure to recognise fungal infections, he added, citing data from Kenya that suggested that better surveillance for fungal meningitis would save 5,000 deaths per year among individuals with H.I.V.

He estimated that the annual cost of extensive testing would be roughly $50,000.

According to Dr. Denning, the failure to diagnose has unintended repercussions. He used the hypothetical case of a leukaemia patient who gets a deadly fungal infection. “If that individual dies from a fungal illness, their families may choose to donate to a leukaemia foundation,”

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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