Fungus infections

Infection with fungal micro-organisms. Fungi are plants without leaves that depend for their existence on other plants or animals; some of them are useful to man – in the preparation of antibiotics for example, edible mushrooms, and yeasts used in the manufacture of bread and beer. On the other hand fungi can attack edible plants, cause food to decay and induce infection in man. Fungi take various forms: multicellular organisms which grow by forming long threads or interwoven structures (mycelium), and unicellular fungi (yeasts) which reproduce themselves by bud formation. It is possible that in nature the ‘myceliar form’ is produced and in man the ‘yeast form’, e.g. in histoplasmosis. A fungus spreads by means of spores, from which new fungi develop. Fungi occur throughout nature, and both on and in man, without causing problems (e.g. Candida albicans). If fungi cause infection it is usually of the skin; infection is transmitted from person to person by contact, flowers, clothes and so on, or from man to animal. Foresters, nurses and people who keep animals are prone to fungus infections. Young people often catch a fungus infection in swimming baths which causes itching, redness and blisters, particularly between the toes. Fungus infections of the hairy parts of the head show characteristic scaliness and hair loss. Many fungi cause infection only when resistance is lowered, particularly in the cae of candidiasis and aspergillosis; histoplasmosis and coccidioimycosis are also rarely found in otherwise healthy patients. Resistance is reduced by long illness, malnutrition or the use of certain medicines (e.g. cytostatics, antibiotics). The clinical picture caused by fungus infection depends on the place in which the fungus establishes itself. After the skin, the lungs are the most affected area, with symptoms of coughing, chest pain, vomiting blood and constriction. Treatment is with ointment, sometimes tablets; in some cases an operation is necessary to remove the mould from the lung or skin.

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