W.H.O. warns of new Pathogen Threat to humanity
Public health around the world has historically focused on two classes of pathogens – bacteria and viruses. But as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned, the serious risk that fungal attack poses to humans is skyrocketing. The surge has been driven by a combination of factors:- Covid; the mounting resistance of pathogens to drugs; and more patients possessing weakened immune systems.
An estimated 4,300 Covid patients lost their lives to an aggressive “black fungus” in India during the second wave of the pandemic in 2021. Infections aren’t confined by geography though and we have learned this the hard way over the past few years with the spread of Covid-19 around the globe; and now, people across the world are increasingly being hit with debilitating airborne fungal diseases, including in the UK.
Typically, fungi kill by infesting the respiratory system, attacking the nervous system and the brain.
People whose immune systems have been weakened are at the greatest risk of invasive fungal infections, such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or treatment for HIV/Aids.
Short-term Covid-19 infections and Long-Covid is believed to have played a role, too. The reported incidence of invasive fungal infections increased significantly among hospitalised patients during the pandemic, “often with devastating consequences,” according to the WHO.
The WHO are so concerned that they have published a fungal priority pathogens list to guide research, development and public health action, coupled with a warning that resistance to the limited number of medications available is rising, too.
Meanwhile, resistance to antifungal medicines is said to be partly driven by inappropriate use in agriculture. For example, the injudicious use of antifungals in agriculture has been linked to the rising rates of azole-resistant Aspergillus Fumigatus infections, the WHO said.
The WHO has now issued a plea for a global effort to prioritise research and development into the treatment and surveillance of fungal pathogens.
“Currently, fungal infections receive less than 1.5 percent of all infectious disease research funding,” the report found, suggesting the true health burden of fungi is unknown, while “most treatment guidelines are informed by limited evidence and expert opinion,” said Dr Haileyesus Getahun, WHO Director, AMR Global Coordination Department.
We have to learn how to mitigate and live with these threats using technology such as Germicidal UVC to inactivate airborne pathogens whether they be viral, bacterial or fungal, and not solely relying on drugs to combat outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics.
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