2 new fungal infections emerge in US: What to know

Experts at New York City-based NYU Langone Health are warning healthcare providers to be aware of two highly contagious fungal infections causing rashes, according to a June 5 news release shared with Becker's.

NYU Langone Health researchers honed in on two separate studies to draw these conclusions. One focused on the spread of a sexually transmitted fungal infection, tinea, found to be caused by Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII and the other focused on Trichophyton indotineae.

Both fungi species can lead to ringworm rashes, jock itch and athlete's foot, but there are changes in how some of these rashes are now presenting, according to the research, published June 5 in JAMA Dermatology

"Healthcare providers should be aware that Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is the latest in a group of severe skin infections to have now reached the United States,"  Avrom Caplan, MD, study lead author and dermatologist at NYU Grossman School of Medicine said in the release.

Until now, the fungal infection has not been identified in the U.S., but has been increasingly spotted across Europe in recent months, with 13 cases confirmed in France in 2023. It's usually diagnosed in men who have male sexual partners.

While cases of Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII are challenging to treat and can take several weeks or months to clear up, so far, those infections have been responding to terbinafine as a treatment, according to NYU Langone researchers. 

However, infections with Trichophyton indotineae have become harder to treat, a separate study, also by NYU Langone, published May 15 in JAMA Dermatology, found. 

Trichophyton indotineae infections, while newer, have been reported in the U.S. before. But, instances of infections have spread globally since, and it often is a strain that does resist typical terbinafine treatments. Some success has been reported in patients treated for the fungal infection with another antifungal called itraconazole. Although, it is a drug that can have uncomfortable side effects if used long term for treatment.

"These findings offer new insight into how some of the fungal skin infections spreading from South Asia can evade our go-to therapies," Dr. Caplan said in the release. "Beyond learning to recognize their misleading signs, physicians will need to ensure their treatment addresses each patient's quality-of-life needs."

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