Fungal infections can be deadly

Aspergillus fumigatusAspergillus fumigatus.Photo: Jannicke Wiik-Nielsen, Veterinærinstituttet / NTB scanpix

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Every year, 1.5 million people die from fungal infections, and they are increasingly resistant to drugs.

Now researchers are sounding the alarm.

First and foremost, people with impaired immune systems are at risk of dying from fungal infections. But in recent years, it has also been seen that completely healthy people are affected.

‘’This can for example be people who are admitted to the intensive care unit with severe influenza. After the flu they get a secondary fungal infection in the lungs, the fungus turns out to be resistant, and then they die’’ said senior researcher, Ida Skaar, at the state veterinary institute to NTB news.

Under-communicated

The fungus is called Aspergillus fumigatus.It can cause fatal infections and in many countries has developed high levels of
resistance to Azoles, the main drugs used in its treatment.

Skaar believes that the problem is seriously under-communicated.

‘’Every year, just as many fungal infected people die as they do from tuberculosis and malaria in the world. Still, it is not talked about at all. At the same time, the fungus develops resistance to the agents used in the treatment. The resistance spreads all over the world, without being talked about’’ she said.

‘’Knowing ‘nada’

This week, the world’s foremost experts in fungal resistance are gathered in Oslo to discuss the challenge. At the same time, a new report is to bepresented on the situation in Norway.

‘’We really know “nada” about how it is in Norway.

The statistics are heavily underreported, but 200 serious yeast infections are reported among people each year’’ said the researcher.

Azoles are a type of antibiotic used to treat fungal infections in both humans and animals.

‘’But the Azoles are also used in agriculture. They are needed to ensure enough food and safe food.

The Azoles are used on golf courses and in the treatment of wood. In principle, increased use contributes to an increased risk of resistance development, but the development can be slowed down. Although there has been a focus on preventing the development of resistance in fungi that attack plants, there is absolutely no regulation at all across humans, animals and plants at all’’ said Skaar.

Lack of strategy

Figures from the Netherlands have shown that around one third of Aspergillus fumigatus fungus have developed resistance to Azoles. By comparison, only 7% of the fungus was resistant in 2007 in the Netherlands.

Skaar also lacks proper figures from Norway, as well as a clear strategy from the authorities.

‘’The right authorities need to talk together to know how the situation is and monitor it. We need to talk together to find out how we can use the Azoles in the best possible way, to ensure enough food, safe food, while retaining the effect of the medical Azoles’’ said the researcher.

She pointed out that in recent years, it has become increasingly helpful to monitor bacterial antibiotic resistance and hopes the same can happen with fungi.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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