WHO publishes list of 19 life-threatening fungi

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) catalogued the 19 fungi that represent today’s most significant public health risk.

By putting these “priority pathogens” on a list, the World Health Organization hopes to encourage research and improve how to deal with fungal infections and antifungal resistance.

WHO said that people who already have health problems or a weak immune system are most likely to get sick.

And the importance of the problem was shown during the COVID-19 pandemic when hospitalized patients got a lot more invasive fungal infections that “often had devastating effects.”

The UN health agency’s catalogue focuses on fungal pathogens that can cause “invasive acute and subacute systemic fungal infections” that have become resistant to treatment.

The pathogens are divided into three groups based on their importance: critical, high, and medium.

Critical: Cryptococcus neoformans, Candida auris, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Candida albicansHigh: Nakaseomyces glabrata (Candida glabrata), Histoplasma spp., eumycetoma-causing agents, Mucorales, Fusarium spp., Candida tropicalis, and Candida parapsilosisMedium: Scedosporium spp., Lomentospora prolificans, Coccidioides spp., Pichia kudriavzeveii (Candida krusei), Cryptococcus gattii, Talaromyces marneffei, Pneumocystis jirovecii, and Paracoccidioides spp.

WHO warned, “New groups at risk of invasive fungal disease are being found all the time.” “As the fungi that cause common infections, like oral and vaginal thrush caused by candida, become more resistant to treatment, the chances of the general population getting more serious infections are also rising.”

Today, there are only four kinds of antifungal medicines, which is a problem because fungal infections are getting more common and harder to treat.

Even scarier is that “most fungal pathogens lack rapid and sensitive diagnostics, and those (medicines) that exist are not widely available or affordable around the world,” WHO said.

People with cancer, HIV or AIDS, organ transplants, chronic lung disease, or tuberculosis are most likely to get an invasive fungal infection.

The latest information from WHO shows that fungal diseases are becoming more common and spreading to more places around the world. The UN health agency said that global warming and more international travel and trade are likely to blame.

WHO said that drug-resistant bacterial infections already “directly cause 1.27 million deaths and contribute to about 4.95 million deaths every year” to give an idea of how dangerous fungal infections could be.

WHO told countries that want to fight fungal diseases that they should improve their lab and surveillance capabilities to learn more about the burden of infections and antifungal resistance. This was one of their top recommendations.

“Inappropriate use of antifungals is partly to blame for resistance to antifungal medicines,” WHO said, noting that the wrong use of antifungals in agriculture had been linked to a rise in infections of Aspergillus fumigatus, a common mold that can spread.

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