Little Medicinal Creams Don't Often Cure Fungal Diseases Leaving Them Lethal

Harold Mandel's picture
A research lab

Fungal infections rank among the major killers in the world. Yet, many people do not think much of the seriousness of these infections, thinking they generally involve a minor infection which a little medicinal cream will cure. This often is not true, with many fungal infections being lethal killers. Therefore aggressive efforts to fight fungal infections are warranted.

Although fungal diseases may appear to be mysterious, they are actually often caused by fungi which are common in the environment, writes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fungi are found all around us:

1: In soil

2: On plants

3: On trees

4: On other vegetation

5: On our skin

6: In our mucous membranes

7: In our intestinal tracts

Many fungi are not actually dangerous, and actually some can even be helpful. Consider that ingredients made from fungi are used in penicillin, bread, wine, and beer. However, some fungi can be very harmful for your health. Just like bacteria and viruses, some types of fungi can be dangerous for your health.

Fungal infections can range in severity from mild to severe and deadly. Sometimes mild fungal infections appear as a rash or a mild respiratory illness. However, fungal infections can also manifest as severe fungal pneumonia or bloodstream infection, and can lead to very serious complications such as meningitis or even death. The CDC stresses continued vigilance for fungal meningitis, writes EMaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD.


Fungal infections have been posing a heightened threat to public health for several reasons, as follows:

1: Opportunistic infections such as cryptococcosis and aspergillosis are becoming increasingly troubling as the number of people with weakened immune systems increases. This includes cancer patients, transplant recipients, and people suffering from HIV/AIDS.

2: Hospital-associated infections such as candidemia are a leading cause of bloodstream infections across the United States. Advancements and alterations in healthcare practices have been providing opportunities for new and drug-resistant fungi to emerge in hospital settings.

3: Community-acquired infections such as coccidioidomycosis (valley fever), blastomycosis, and histoplasmosis, are caused by fungi which are abundant in the environment. These fungi live all around us in the soil, on plants, or in compost heaps, and have been found to be endemic throughout much of the U.S. It is possible climate change may be affecting these fungi.

Fungal infections steal greater than 1.3 million lives each year worldwide, reports Rutgers University. This is almost as many lives as are lost to tuberculosis every year. David Perlin, executive director of the Public Health Research Institute at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, shares that the term fungus generally provokes an image of something that smells or looks disgusting. Perlin is dedicated to reducing the death toll and severe disability which fungi can cause.

Perlin has said, “More than a million people around the world are blind because of fungal infections of the eye and half of the world’s 350,000 asthma-related deaths each year stem from fungal infection that could be treated effectively with drugs.” Furthermore, fungal infections may complicate the recoveries of recipients of organs. Fungal infections are also responsible for vaginal yeast infections, which hit about three quarters of American women at least once in their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fungi are different than both bacteria and viruses. The biology of fungi is different from both. Fungi have a cell nucleus and other internal structures which distinguish them from bacteria and viruses. But, fungi are just as large a threat to health and life. Perlin has said, “People know well what a bacterium or a virus can do. We need to start thinking of fungi in the same terms, and part of that is becoming more aware that fungi are all around us in the environment. Yeast is a fungus. So is mold. Many people don’t realize that.”

In 2012 there was a shocking report of at least 64 people who died and more than 750 who developed meningitis after their back pain was treated with tainted steroid injections. This was caused by a fungus. The fungus Exserhilum rostratum had contaminated those patients’ medication during the manufacturing process. Acting with urgency in response to that deadly meningitis outbreak, Perlin worked with his colleagues on the development of a test which can detect the fungus either in batches of medication or in the bloodstreams of people who are infected.

Perlin has been working aggressively in his lab at Rutgers to crack the many mysteries of fungal infections. He has also been working aggressively to improve the often disorganized approach to dealing with this deadly problem around the world. He has worked on the launch of GAFFI, which is the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections. The organization has goals which include extensive efforts to accurately measure the scope of fungal infections around the world, with much of this remaining undocumented, and to implement relatively simple solutions where the problems are known but the will, the funding and the infrastructure to address them are not present at this time.

Consider that the cause of fungus associated blindness may be as unbelievably simple as an irritation which is caused by an unclean finger. Although, diagnosis and treatment should be both easy and inexpensive, Perlin points out they are not available in many parts of the world. Perlin has also pointed out that asthma which is caused by fungal infection is not just a problem in poor countries. He has said, “There are people who needlessly suffer and die from asthma here in the developed world because there are physicians who haven’t been trained to consider fungal infection as a possible cause.”

Many people suffer from fungal infections associated with asthma for years because of lack of proper treatment. And yet as many as 80 percent of people who receive the appropriate drugs see their conditions dramatically improve. Vitamin B3 could be used to treat drug resistant fungal infections, reports EmaxHealth reporter Kathleen Blanchard, RN.

Rutgers comments that fungi are not “sexy,” which has created a competitive disadvantage when researchers like Perlin try to get the attention of governments, major foundations, the media and the public to get more funding for research. Yet, getting noticed has the power to translate into saving or improving millions of lives. I have noticed that Perlin is right, that the amount of knowledge and clinical teaching to deal with potentially deadly fungal infections is severely lacking. His research has me worried at this moment far too many people may be suffering and dying from asthma associated fungal infections, and other fungal infections, who could instead be given proper treatment and cured of the infections.

It is interesting to note that in our ever more unpredictable society people worldwide are willing to together spend millions and millions of dollars to get some excitement from such new varieties of sexy entertainment such as twerking by Miley Cyrus, and yet they don't want to invest even a $1 towards saving lives with such scientific interests. So, while Perlin and his colleagues continue to do both good research and advocacy for their cause to fight deadly fungal infections, keep in mind Miley too could collapse and die, while she is twerking, from a deadly fungal infection which could strike her, just like anybody else, at anytime and just about anyplace.