BLASTOMYCOSIS

BY DAKSHITA NAITHANI

INTRODUCTION

The fungus Blastomyces causes blastomycosis and the fungus can be found in nature, especially in damp soil and decomposing organic materials like wood and leaves. It is found mostly in the midwestern, south-central, and southern regions of the United States, notably in locations near the Ohio and Mississippi River basins, the Great Lakes, and the Saint Lawrence River. The fungus can also be found in Canada, and there have been a few instances of blastomycosis documented in Africa and India.

People can get blastomycosis by inhaling tiny fungus spores in the air, which frequently occurs after engaging in activities that disrupt the soil. Although the majority of individuals who inhale the spores do not become ill, some will have symptoms such as fever and cough. The infection can be serious in certain people, such as those with weaker immune systems, especially if it spreads from the lungs to other organs.

SYMPTOMS

Blastomycosis is characterised by a high fever.

About half of those infected with the fungus Blastomyces will have symptoms. Blastomycosis symptoms are frequently comparable to those of other lung infections, and include the following:

•             Fever

•             Cough

•             Night sweats

•             Muscle aches or joint pain

•             Weight loss

•             Chest pain

•             Fatigue (extreme tiredness)

Blastomycosis symptoms generally develop 3 weeks to 3 months after a person inhales the fungus spores.

Severe blastomycosis

Blastomycosis can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, including the skin, bones and joints, and the central nervous system, in some people, especially those with weakened immune systems (the brain and spinal cord).

WHO IS AT RISK

Anyone who has been in an area where Blastomyces is present in the environment can acquire blastomycosis. People who engage in outdoor activities in these locations that expose them to forested areas (such as forestry labour, hunting, and camping) may be more susceptible. People with compromised immune systems are more prone than those who are otherwise healthy to acquire severe blastomycosis.

PREVENTION

There is no vaccination to prevent blastomycosis, and it may not be feasible to avoid being exposed to the fungus that causes the disease in regions where it is prevalent. People with weaker immune systems should avoid activities in these areas that require disturbing the soil.

LIFE CYCLE

Blastomyces is a mould that generates fungal spores that thrives in the environment. The spores are too tiny to see with naked eyes. People and animals who inhale the spores are at danger of contracting blastomycosis. The body temperature permits the spores to convert into yeast when they enter the lungs. The yeast can remain in the lungs or spread to other areas of the body via the circulation, including the skin, bones and joints, organs, and the central nervous system.

DIAGONOSIS

Blastomycosis is diagnosed using your medical and travel history, symptoms, physical examinations, and laboratory testing. A doctor will most likely test for blastomycosis by sending a sample of blood or urine to a laboratory.

Imaging studies, such as chest X-Rays or CT scans of your lungs may be performed by your healthcare practitioner. They may also take a sample of fluid from your lungs or perform a tissue biopsy, which involves taking a tiny sample of damaged tissue from your body and examining it under a microscope. Laboratories may also examine it may grow in bodily fluids or tissues (this is called a culture).

TREATMENT

The majority of patients with blastomycosis will require antifungal therapy. Itraconazole is an antifungal drug that is commonly used to treat blastomycosis in mild to moderate cases. For severe blastomycosis in the lungs or infections that have spread to other areas of the body, amphotericin B is generally used. Treatment might last anywhere from six months to a year, depending on the severity of the illness and the person’s immunological condition.