A2 Microbes in the news: Fungal infection ‘threat’ to human health

Fungal infection ‘threat’ to human health

James Gallagher, BBC News, July 5th, 2016

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-36702215

Summary: This article aims to describe the extent to which fungal infections can be pathogenic to humans. Often when people think of fungal infections, they may not necessarily consider that these type of infections kill one million people per year. Also, there are no vaccines available for fungal infections. Three major groups of fungi are responsible for the infections. People that are immunosuppressed are most vulnerable to these infections.

Connections: Fungi are eukaryotes, which means that they share many cellular mechanisms with the eukaryotic hosts that they infect, such as humans. This explains in part why it is so difficult to make vaccines against and treat fungal infections. Since antibiotics rely on differences between the pathogens and host for their targets, if the pathogen and host are similar, there are fewer cellular mechanisms available for the antibiotic to target.

Critical analysis: I though that the numbers in this story were interesting. I was not aware that approximately 1 million people are killed every year by fungal infections, and that there are three main categories of fungi that are responsible for these infections.

Question: Do any vaccines against fungal infections exist? What is their mechanism?

4 Comments for “A2 Microbes in the news: Fungal infection ‘threat’ to human health”

Katrina Dowell

says:

I also had no idea that many people died from fungal infections! From what I could find on fungal vaccines, the successful ones are a type of conjugate made with plant and bacterial antibodies. I wish I knew more about immunology now!

iyeo

says:

I found your article really interesting! and I too have disregarded fungal infections since most we learned in class focused heavily on bacterial or viral caused diseases.
Recently I read something about a panfungal vaccine using β-glucans of S. cerevisiae and it was shown to generate protection against several pathogenic fungi. However this wasn’t human tested.

brkriesel

says:

I didn’t realize how dangerous fungal infections could be. I really like this article. I have done some research about fungal infections and have found that yes, there are vaccines against them! Many of them are aimed at producing a Th1 or Th17 immune response in order to improve the rate of phagocytic killing of the fungi.

Kjersten

says:

Wow! That is a very interesting article. I would never have even suspected that those would be the statistics or that fungal infections could prove so fatal so frequently… Much of the time, fungal infections are disregarded or thought of as more of an annoyance than a serious disease.
I was not able to locate much information concerning a fungal vaccine, though there was a paper in which the author seemed to have some ideas for the development of one: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155210/

It seems that the current recommendations for avoiding fungal infections until a vaccine is available primarily involve not coming into contact with a fungus (which is sometimes unavoidable) and also maintaining your skin so as to not provide an environment optimal for fungal growth (keeping skin dry, changing damp clothing, etc).

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