'It's going to get worse': Experts warn of rising fungal infections

Fungal infections are on the rise — in part due to more people with compromised immune systems and deadly pathogens adapting to warmer temperatures — and physicians need to be ready, experts told The Wall Street Journal in a June 22 report

"It's going to get worse," Tom Chiller, MD, head of CDC's fungal diseases branch, told the news outlet.

In many cases, fungi aren't being considered as the culprit of recurring symptoms until it's too late for treatments to be effective. When antibiotics don't work the first time or there's confusion over what's causing symptoms, fungi should be considered right away, specialists told the Journal. Fungal pathogens becoming more resistant to standard treatments is another key concern. 

Part of the challenge is the lack of training physicians receive in medical school around identifying and treating fungal infections, experts said. Typically, only a few hours of curriculum are dedicated to the topic. 

"Most fungal diseases are taught in medical school as being rare or unusual or some even regional, but we see these on a daily basis," George Thompson, MD, infectious disease specialist at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif., told the Journal

Four more notes that illustrate the threat posed by fungi: 

  • Between 2020 and 2021, at least 2,800 people in the U.S. died from fungal infections related to COVID-19, which is a significant risk factor for fungal infections. 


  • Clinical cases of Candida auris grew 95 percent from 2016 to 2021. Health agencies consider C. auris among the pathogens that pose the greatest threat to public health. The multidrug-resistant pathogen carries a 30 percent to 60 percent death rate. 


  • Between 250,000 and 500,000 Americans are infected with the mold Histoplasma each year.


  • Health officials continue to monitor a fungal meningitis outbreak tied to cosmetic procedures performed at two clinics in Mexico between Jan. 1 and May 13. Among U.S. residents, there have been nine confirmed cases and six deaths tied to the outbreak so far, and more than 170 people who may be at risk.

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