"Eleven years ago, my colleagues and I estimated that about 2 million people
around the world were dying from fungal infections annually. My latest estimate
puts the figure today at nearly double that: around 3.8 million deaths.
To put this in perspective, it accounts for around 6.8% of total global deaths.
Coronary heart disease is probably responsible for 16% of the world's total
deaths, followed by stroke at 11%. Smoke-related lung disease (COPD) comprises
6% of total deaths, with fungal infection being responsible for about one-third
of these 3,228,000 deaths.
Other comparative global death statistics put pneumonia at 2,600,000 (some
fungal) and tuberculosis at 1,208,000 (of which mostly undiagnosed fungal
disease probably comprises 340,000 deaths).
To arrive at these estimates – published in Lancet Infectious Diseases
made a judgment about the proportion of fungal cases actually diagnosed and
treated, and those that are missed. While fungal disease diagnostics have
improved greatly in the last ten to 15 years, both access to and actual usage
of these tests is limited – and not only in low-income countries.
For example, South Africa has an enviable diagnostic service for fungal
(cryptococcal) meningitis and bloodstream fungal infection (Candida
), but has
no diagnostics for infections caused by another very common fungus,
. These gaps contribute substantially to unnecessary deaths. In
particular, timely diagnosis of severe Aspergillus
infections, ideally within
48 hours, could save millions of lives each year.
The most important lethal fungi are Aspergillus fumigatus
, which cause lung infections. Among the people affected are those with
lung diseases, such as asthma, TB and lung cancer, but also people with
leukaemia, those who have had an organ transplant and those in intensive care.
Many of these people die because their doctor does not recognise that they have
fungal disease – or they recognise it too late. But also, many of the deaths
are down to slow or absent diagnostic testing and a lack of effective
antifungal drugs. Tests based on fungal cultures only identify about a third of
people who actually have a fungal infection.
Unfortunately, as with antibiotic resistance, antifungal resistance is a
growing problem too. Spraying crops with certain types of fungicides is greatly
increasing resistance rates to a group of antifungal drugs, known as azoles."
Via Rixty Dixet.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics