Fungal Research Trust
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Awareness & Advocacy

The size of the problem

Estimates of fungal infection burden are derived from multiple sources and are all crude estimates. Better local estimates are required. Some infections are common everywhere (Candida vaginitis as an example), others much more common in tropical underdeveloped countries (cryptococcal meningitis in AIDS), others in temperate, industrialised nations (ie SAFS). (view: How Common are Fungal Diseases)

The global burdens of several important fungal infections are displayed in tabular form and can be found with their sources at fungalinfectiontrust.org or by downloading our PDF

The economic burden of invasive fungal infections is high because these patients spend longer in hospital and many antifungal drugs are expensive.  An overview from the USA in 2002 (prior to licensure of echinocandins or voriconazole and posaconazole) indicates a country cost of at least $2.6 billion (see here). Late diagnosis contributes substantially to the cost. 


Created by Patrick Hickey for the “Killer Fungus” exhibit at the 2016 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition  http://www.killerfungus.org
 

Impact of fungal infections

1. Deaths

  • Cryptococcal meningitis – 20% death rate in the USA, >50% in Africa. 600,000 deaths annually. Diagnosis simple with antigen test, but often late and appropriate medication not available.
  • Invasive aspergillosis – 50% mortality treated, >99% if not. Diagnosis difficult; treatment often too late, and only partially effective. 200,000 cases 100,000 deaths annually.
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis – Over 3 million affected worldwide. Diagnosis often confused with TB, and requires radiology and aspergillus antibody test; 30% mortality in 6 months, often by coughing up blood. Treatment partially successful but long term. 450,000 deaths per year.
  • Pneumocystis pneumonia - ~15% mortality in UK in AIDS, ~50% non-AIDS, 100% if not diagnosed and treated. Diagnosis difficult without PCR or fluorescence microscopy. Treatment straightforward and available. 80,000 deaths per year.
  • Candida bloodstream infection - ~40% mortality, treated. Diagnosis by blood culture. Treatment straightforward, best drugs expensive. 120,000 deaths per year.
  • SAFS – increased risk of asthmatic death (estimated to be 350,000 annually worldwide.)

2. Illness

  • Oral and oesophageal thrush – unpleasant, reduced food intake and weight loss.
  • ABPA and SAFS – breathlessness with severe asthma, reducing work capability especially for manual workers, co-morbidity issues with smoke from home cooking – easy diagnosis (skin prick tests), if considered, antifungal treatment 60-80% effective.
  • Chronic pulmonary aspergillosis – progressive breathlessness and weight loss, with significant hospitalisation and medication costs (typically mis-directed).
  • Fungal eye infection – usually results in unilateral blindness as diagnosis late, good outcome if treated early. Diagnosis requires expert input; treatment intensive initially but unaffordable for most afflicted.
  • Candida vaginitis – mis-diagnosis and anxiety major problems; impaired sex life and therefore relationship issues.
  • Fungal hair infection – most common in black children, who suffer patches of hair loss and psychological problems as a result. Diagnosis and treatment usually straightforward and highly effective.

Resources:

Diagnosis of fungal disease- some global issues ( Denning, Edinburgh 2015)

Further reading

Barnes R & Rautemaa-Richardson R (2014) Fungi — forgotten foes. The Bulletin, Royal College of Pathologists, 167, pp. 161-162. PDF

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