By: April Carson
Once thought to be localized within certain parts of the US, three particular varieties of fungi that cause serious lung infections have now spread far and wide.
In 1955, Histoplasma fungi was found predominately in soil from the Midwest and certain states of the East and South - this is also where most cases of histoplasmosis were then presented. However, based on Medicare records between 2007 to 2016, researchers discovered that 47 US states (as well as Washington D.C.) reported more than a predetermined amount of histoplasmosis cases; findings which have recently been detailed in Clinical Infectious Diseases journal published November 11th.
The other two fungi varieties (Blastomyces and Coccidioides) were also found to have spread beyond their original endemic areas. For example, researchers noted that over the nine year time period, Blastomyces had spread from 22 states to 44.
According to Andrej Spec, an infectious diseases doctor and mycologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, these fungi are "abundantly present everywhere" nowadays. Spec believes that the spread could be due to a number of different factors, including climate change, increased rainfall and construction projects disturbing soil where the fungi live.
Without updated information on map locations from the 1950s or '60s, medical practitioners might not be able to spot infections within those living beyond the mushrooms' traditional borders; this could result in dire consequences if diagnoses is postponed or overlooked.
The study also found that several species of fungi in the Aspergillus family had increased their range over the years, which could mean heightened allergic reactions and respiratory diseases. This is especially concerning as these issues can be difficult to diagnose and treat in timely fashion.
Spec and his contemporaries produced fresh drawings of areas displaying Histoplasma, alongside two other strains of fungi whose scope has likely broadened due to climate alteration.
It's been observed that Coccidioides, the fungi responsible for coccidioidomycosis (valley fever), have proliferated from their 1955 origins in the Southwest to 35 states, as suggested by Medicare reports. As of late, increased wildfire activity has also been linked with a surge in valley fever cases throughout these regions.
Similarly, Sporothrix schenckii, which causes sporotrichosis, has spread from its 1955 range in the Southeast and Midwest to 32 states.
The researchers hope their maps will help physicians more quickly recognize an expanded range of fungal infections. A misdiagnoses, for instance, could cause a delay in proper treatment.
The study’s authors attribute the range expansion of these fungi to climate change, which leads to elevated temperatures and changes in precipitation that are hospitable for their growth. The spread is exacerbated by human intervention, such as land clearing for development.
In 1955, the prevalence of Blastomyces was mainly concentrated in the Midwest and East. Nevertheless, from 2007 to 2016, a total of 40 states revealed cases over an explicit limit according to research. Histoplasma is also present within this geographical area at that same time as well.
It is essential for physicians and other health providers to recognize the risk of infection due to these fungi, especially in areas that have not previously been known to be infected. Diagnostic tests are available, but they may take a while to yield results, which can be detrimental to the patient. Education and awareness of these fungal threats may help to identify infections and improve public health outcomes.
Spec claims that medical practitioners are taught to search for horses, instead of zebras, while diagnosing infections. This implies they usually investigate the general infectious organisms, not exotic ones. “Contrary to our initial perception of these [fungi] as an extraordinary incident, they are more commonplace than we may have thought. They can be likened to the Clydesdales – which although not seen on a daily basis, still remain horses nonetheless.”
He wishes the revamped maps will motivate medical practitioners to conduct more frequent testing of fungi in patients battling respiratory illnesses. “The hope is that this will encourage clinicians to become more aware and proactive in testing for respiratory fungal infections.” With the updated maps, it won't be long before these fungi are no longer "zebras" but rather everyday horses of infectious diseases.
Billy Carson & Doctah B Sirius January 7th 2023 Event Warm-up.
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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