"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Five facts that show how little we learn about fungi, and their harmful effects on human health

Fungi are ubiquitous in nature. No one really knows what number of sorts of fungi there are—one Estimates are between 2.2m and 3.8m. – and only 120,000 of those species have been documented. Fungi and molds include a dizzying range of physical forms and attributes, living in each temperate environments and warm, cold, or deep-sea environments.

Most play a crucial but invisible role in breaking down plant matter and redistributing nutrients through the soil. Some are good for food – for instance, yeasts are essential to creating bread, beer and other foods which have shaped societies and cultures for hundreds of years. But many others are poisonous, for instance the poisonous death cap. Fungi have sometimes had dire effects on the natural world: epidemics of chytrid fungi have decimated amphibian populations worldwide, driving species toward extinction, and other fungi Attacked important food crops.Endangering food safety.

But the impact of fungal infections on humans is underappreciated, having increased significantly over the past few a long time. Hidden from the attention is a growing tide of fungus that harms us, whether we will see it or not.

Fungi are widespread and protracted.

About 25% of the world's population suffers from fungal infections of the hair, skin or nails yearly, e.g Player's feet. Most women suffer from at the very least one fungal infection eg Castles, and a major proportion experience them frequently. Although the vast majority of these so-called “superficial” fungal infections are relatively easy to diagnose and treat, some causes Debilitating and debilitating infections which has very limited treatment options. And drug resistance is on the rise.

They are deadly.

Incredibly, invasive fungal infections Malaria kills three times as many people.. Only a couple of fungi could cause fatal diseases in healthy people, and these are frequently rare and only present in certain geographic regions, reminiscent of South America. But more worrisome are the normally harmless fungal infections that occur in individuals with weakened immune systems. For example, modern immunosuppressive drugs used for organ transplants or to treat HIV/AIDS have seen an enormous increase within the number of individuals infected.

It is frightening how fatal these infections could be, with mortality rates often exceeding 50%. Recent statistics show. At least 1.6 million people die each year. As a result – equal to approx Number of deaths from tuberculosis Worldwide. As with other pathogens, most associated deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries where treatment options are limited.

Hard to diagnose, hard to treat

Fungal infections are very difficult to diagnose and treat, and because of this invasive fungal diseases have such a high mortality rate. With few exceptions, current methods for diagnosing fungal infections are fraught with problems related to their ability to accurately detect them. This results in delays in starting treatment, often with fatal consequences.

Our treatment arsenal can also be limited. We have relatively few drugs, and lots of of them are toxic or interact badly with other commonly used drugs. They could also be effective only on a narrow spectrum of fungi, or could also be difficult to manage. It is telling that there may be. There is no vaccine against fungal infections. In current clinical use. Worryingly, drug resistance is increasing and there are only a few recent drugs in clinical development. And many necessary antifungal drugs are also unaffordable or unavailable in low- and middle-income countries where they're most needed.

Linked to diseases we don't understand

There are fungi increasingly linked to a number of human diseases, reminiscent of allergic and asthmatic diseases that affect hundreds of thousands of individuals. Cause of mildew More than a million eye infections each year, a lot of which result in blindness. Recent evidence, mostly from animal models, suggests that changes within the fungal composition of the gut may affect the severity of gastric ulcers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, food allergies, and Even alcoholic liver disease. There are also some reports that Linking Fungus to Neurological Disorders reminiscent of Alzheimer's disease.

And we're not paying enough attention.

Our ability to combat fungal diseases is severely hampered by a worldwide shortage of scientists and clinicians working on this field. This lack of capability is especially acute within the developing world, which bears the very best burden of disease.

Compared to large-scale research on infectious bacteria or viruses, most research on fungal infections is conducted by small groups or individuals. There are only a couple of major research centers all over the world, of which MRC Center for Medical Mycology There is one in Aberdeen. Fungus research funding accounts for lower than 3% of the infectious disease budgets of major international funders (at the very least within the UK and USA), reflecting the paucity of funding applications submitted.

If we're to draw experts to construct the growing research capability that's so desperately needed to handle these challenges, greater awareness of the growing health risks attributable to fungal infections is crucial.