Lung infections caused by soil fungi are common in US

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In a study from Washington University in St. Louis, scientists found fungi in the soil cause a significant number of serious lung infections in 48 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, including many areas long thought to be free of deadly environmental fungi.

Studies from the 1950s and 60s indicated that fungal lung infections were a problem only in certain parts of the country.

The new study found that is no longer the case. Doctors who rely on outdated maps of disease-causing fungi may miss the signs of a fungal lung infection, resulting in delayed or incorrect diagnoses, the researchers said.

Histoplasma, or histo, is one of the three main species of soil fungi that cause lung infections in the U.S. Historically, Histoplasma was found in the Midwest and parts of the East, Coccidioides in the Southwest, and Blastomyces in the Midwest and the South.

But a growing number of case reports and anecdotes suggest that all three have expanded out of their traditional ranges in recent decades, most likely due to climate change.

People develop fungal lung infections after breathing in spores from fungi in the soil.

The spores become airborne when the ground is disturbed by farming, landscaping, construction, or even just by people walking around in fungi-rich environments such as caves.

Most healthy adults and children can fight off a fungal infection handily, but infants, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems may develop fever, cough, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Fungal lung infections easily can be mistaken for bacterial or viral lung infections such as COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

The team says people with fungal lung infection often spend weeks trying to get the right diagnosis and appropriate treatment, and the whole time they’re feeling terrible.

They usually have multiple healthcare visits with multiple opportunities for testing and diagnosis, but the doctor just doesn’t consider a fungal infection until they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

In the study, the team calculated the number of fungal lung infections nationwide from 2007 to 2016 using Medicare fee-for-service claims from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

They found among the 3,143 counties in the U.S., 1,806 had meaningful numbers of lung infections caused by Histoplasma, 339 by Coccidioides, and 547 by Blastomyces.

These counties were distributed across the majority of the U.S. Across the 50 states plus DC, 94% had at least one county with a problem with Histoplasma lung infections, 69% with Coccidioides, and 78% with Blastomyces.

The team says fungal infections are much more common than people realize, and they’re spreading.

It’s important for the medical community to realize these fungi are essentially everywhere these days and that we need to take them seriously and include them in considering diagnoses.

If you care about lung health, please read studies about the cause of wheezing in the lungs, and she was being treated for her lungs, but the problem was her heart.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about mouthwashes that may suppress the COVID-19 virus, and results showing rare blood clots after COVID-19 vaccination.

The study was conducted by Andrej Spec et al and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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