Fungal Infection

Fungal infections tend to be an under-recognized problem, and considerably more research is devoted to the study of bacterial infections. A major challenge in the treatment of common fungal infections is increasing resistance to antifungal therapies due to overuse. Part of the problem is the lack of efficient diagnostic tools.

In the absence of a rapid and accurate test to confirm infections, physicians often prescribe antifungal medications “just to be safe.” In the US, reimbursement issues are also a factor as formularies and drug prices create pressures that lead to overuse of older and relatively inexpensive antifungal medications. As a result, many of these agents, particularly azoles, have lost efficacy against selected pathogens.

  • Over 300 million people are affected by serious fungal diseases worldwide and an estimated 1.6 million deaths are attributed to fungal disease annually.1
  • There are 600 species of fungi that have ever caused infection in humans, but only 30 species regularly cause disease.2
  • Globally, fungal infection of the skin, hair or nails affects approximately a billion people.3 Fungal infection of the skin is the most common illness on earth, after headaches and dental caries.4
  • Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over a million adults and children worldwide because tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment.4
  • Necessary specialized diagnostic tests for fungal diseases are not done, or not available in most low- and middle-income countries. Specialized reference labs that provide key diagnostic tests and critical expertise in fungi infections are found in fewer than 20 countries.4
  • Over $8 billion is spent on antifungal drugs each year.4

Data and Statistics

  • Over 300 million people are affected by serious fungal diseases worldwide and an estimated 1.6 million deaths are attributed to fungal disease annually.1
  • There are 600 species of fungi that have ever caused infection in humans, but only 30 species regularly cause disease.2
  • Globally, fungal infection of the skin, hair or nails affects approximately a billion people.3 Fungal infection of the skin is the most common illness on earth, after headaches and dental caries.4
  • Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over a million adults and children worldwide because tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment.4
  • Necessary specialized diagnostic tests for fungal diseases are not done, or not available in most low- and middle-income countries. Specialized reference labs that provide key diagnostic tests and critical expertise in fungi infections are found in fewer than 20 countries.4
  • Over $8 billion is spent on antifungal drugs each year.4

1. Leading International Fungal Education. The burden of fungal disease: new evidence to show the scale of the problem across the globe. Feb 2017. Retrieved July 2019 from http://www.life-worldwide.org/media-centre/article/the-burden-of-fungal-disease-new-evidence-to-show-the-scale-of-the-problem.
2. Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections. Fungi and fungal infections. Retrieved July 2019 from https://www.gaffi.org/why/fungi-fungal-infections/
3. Vos, T, Flaxman AD, Naghavi M et al. Years lived with disability (YLDs) for 1160 sequelae of 289 diseases and injuries 1990—2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2012; 380:2163–96.
4. Jugessur J, Denning D. Hidden crisis: how 150 people die every hour from fungal infection while the world turns a blind eye. Retrieved July 2019 from https://www.gaffi.org/wp-content/uploads/GAFFI-Leaflet-June-2016-DWD-hidden-crisis.pdf

Knowledge Base

Articles in our Knowledge Base provide a status update on fungal infections and advance recommendations for addressing challenges in microbial management. Eight reports which address health system integration of fungal infection management in low and middle-resource countries can be found at the Lancet Series link.

Other Resources

Excellent resources can be found at the websites of fungal infection advocacy organizations. We hope you find the following links useful:

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