Untreated fungal infection may lead to death – Expert

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Dr Samuel Fayemiwo, the Convener of the University College Hospital Mycology Research/Study Group, says untreated fungal infection in patients may result in death if not treated on time.

Fayemiwo, a microbiologist, made this assertion while addressing a news conference on the 2019 Fungal Disease Awareness Week on Thursday in Ibadan.

The Medical Mycology Society of Nigeria (MMSN) in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention organised the week to highlight the critical need for increased recognition and awareness on fungal diseases.

Fayemiwo said that it was important to recognise serious fungal diseases early enough in the course of a patient’s illness to provide life-saving treatment.

The medical practitioner also said that some fungal diseases could also be perceived as flu or pneumonia, making them widely underecognised and misdiagnosed.

“Life threatening serious fungal infections affect about 11.5 million patients worldwide and account for 1.5 million deaths annually.

“Some of these fungal diseases may go undiagnosed and cause serious infections in people leading to illness and death,” he said.

According to him, some of the most common fungal diseases in Nigeria include meningitis, pneumonia, recurrent yeast infections, fungal hair infections in children and fungal asthma.

He said that outbreaks of fungal diseases were not well documented in the country, thereby contributing to its burden and lack of awareness.

“There are very scarce data on antifungal resistance from Nigeria. It is likely that we have between 50,000 and 100,000 deaths from fungal disease in Nigeria every year.

“Besides, without diagnosis, this is impossible to accurately estimate.

“Increased awareness about fungal diseases is one of the most important ways that we can improve early recognition and reduce delays in diagnosis and treatment.

“We encourage helthcare providers and their patients to ‘think fungus’ when symptoms of infections do not get better.

“A key clue to when a sick person may have a fungal infection is that he or she is being treated with medications for other types of infections but does not get better, ” he said.

He called for training and sensitisation of healthcare workers to build their capacity in identifying and rightly diagnosing fungal diseases.

“Many lives are being lost due to limited diagnostic capabilities for fungal diseases and an unnecessary antifungal therapy on wrong patients.

“Our Mycology Reference Laboratories in teaching hospitals across the country need well-trained and committed leaders in medical mycology,” he said.