An overview of fungal infections.

Infectious Diseases Division, Ottawa Hospital, Ontario, Canada.
Drugs (Impact Factor: 4.13). 02/2001; 61 Suppl 1:1-12. DOI: 10.2165/00003495-200161001-00001
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The incidence of fungal infections is increasing at an alarming rate, presenting an enormous challenge to healthcare professionals. This increase is directly related to the growing population of immunocompromised individuals, resulting from changes in medical practice such as the use of intensive chemotherapy and immunosuppressive drugs. HIV and other diseases which cause immunosuppression have also contributed to this problem. Superficial and subcutaneous fungal infections affect the skin, keratinous tissues and mucous membranes. Included in this class are some of the most frequently occurring skin diseases, affecting millions of people worldwide. Although rarely life threatening, they can have debilitating effects on a person's quality of life and may in some circumstances spread to other individuals or become invasive. Most superficial and subcutaneous fungal infections are easily diagnosed and readily amenable to treatment. Systemic fungal infections may be caused by either an opportunistic organism that infects an at-risk host, or may be associated with a more invasive organism that is endemic to a specific geographical area. Systemic infections can be life threatening and are associated with high morbidity and mortality. Because diagnosis is difficult and the causative agent is often confirmed only at autopsy, the exact incidence of systemic infections is difficult to determine. The most frequently encountered pathogens are Candida albicans and Aspergillus spp. but other fungi such as non-albicans Candida spp. are increasingly important.

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