Fungal Fright: Killer Spores

In preparation for Thursday’s post– I did a quick Google University search for “deadly fungus” and up came Cryptococcus– again. I first blogged about this fungus here.

The interesting thing about fungal infections is that they are like the unwanted orphans of pathogens. Their infections can take a while to manifest and be equally as difficult to treat– often requiring months of anti-fungal therapy.

I first blogged about Cryptococcus two years ago but have you even heard of it? The reason bacteria and viral infections get much more press is that they tend to spread and manifest much more quickly– thereby meeting our need for instant gratification. We’ll know, likely within a few weeks, whether you’re going to live or die.

Not so much with a fungal infection.

A person gets infected by cryptococcus by directly inhaling the spores. There are two species that are responsible for MOST human infections. C. neoformans, found in the soil, generally infects people with weakened immune systems like those with the HIV virus. The other, C. gattii, affects more healthy populations.

What’s interesting is that these fungus spores are continuing to spread along the western sea board. Compared to when I first wrote about this infection, the death rate has risen to about 33% from 25%. What’s more interesting is that the same fungal infection for Canadians only has a death rate of about 10%.

It makes me wonder if the difference in geography plays into the host, the fungus, and/or the ability to fight the infection. All good plot points for a medical thriller.

Treatment is antifungal medications for many months but if these prove inneffective then surgery may be required.

What about you? Have you heard of this deadly spore?

You can check out the following links if you want to read more about Cryptococcus and these links are also where I got the information for this post.

http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2013/05/28/cryptococcus_spread_of_a_deadly_fungus_106543.html

http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/cryptococcosis-gattii/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20570552

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2669189/

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