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Millions of Lives Are at Risk as Deadly Fungal Infections Become Drug-Resistant

    Aspergillus fumigatus causes disease in people with an immunodeficiency. (MichaelFrancisco / CC-BY-2.0)

    Aspergillus fumigatus causes disease in people with an immunodeficiency. (MichaelFrancisco / CC-BY-2.0)

Researchers say widespread use of fungicides on crops is leading potentially deadly fungal infections to acquire resistance to many of the medicines currently used to combat them.

The development mirrors the rise of resistance to antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections in humans.

“There are close parallels between bacterial and fungal resistance, though the problems we face with the latter are particularly worrying,” said professor Adilia Warris, a co-director of the newly opened Centre for Medical Mycology at Aberdeen University.

“There are more than 20 different classes of antibacterial agents. By contrast, there are only four classes of anti-fungal agents. Our armoury for dealing with deadly fungi is much smaller than the one we have for dealing with bacteria.

“We cannot afford to lose the few drugs we have—particularly as very little funding is being made available for research into fungi and fungal infections.”

The Guardian reports:

Fungi cause a range of illnesses—such as thrush, athlete’s foot and dandruff—that can be treated relatively easily.

Other illnesses have more serious consequences. Individuals who are receiving bone marrow transplants and who are immune-suppressed can die of aspergillus and candida fungi infections, for example.

Another example of their grim potential was highlighted last week when doctors reported that a bagpipe player had died because deadly fungi had infected his pipes. …

A vaccine that could protect against fungal disease has yet to be developed, while the rise of resistance to the class of medicines known as azole drugs is causing alarm among doctors.

“The total global number of fungal deaths is about the same as the number of deaths from malaria but the amount that is spent on fungal infection research is only a fraction of the cash that goes on malaria research,” said professor Neil Gow, another Aberdeen researcher.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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