Fungi Impacting Human Health
Among millions of fungal species, a vast majority are harmless and non-pathogenic. Only a few hundred are known to cause human disease. Pathogenic fungi cause diseases in humans leading to severe health issues, while several beneficial fungi provide nutrition, recycle nutrients in the ecosystem by decomposing complex organic materials, and offer commercial opportunities for pharmaceutical, food, and nutraceutical industries. Human diseases from fungal infections range from minor/mild diseases affecting close to a billion people to life-threatening diseases affecting hundreds of millions. Factors such as invasive surgical procedures, immunocompromised individuals, air quality, and pollution contribute to an elevated risk of invasive fungal infections resulting in hospitalizations and high mortalities globally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fungal diseases contribute several billion dollars in direct medical costs annually. An inadequate number of antifungal drugs are available to treat the multitude of fungal diseases, and antifungal resistance development in some fungi poses serious limitations on treatment options. Novel diagnostic methods provide opportunities for rapid, specific, sensitive, and cost-effective diagnosis of several fungal pathogens; however, diagnosing invasive fungal infections is still challenging, especially in immunocompromised patients. There is an urgent need for studies focused on fungal pathogens and infections in humans, improved diagnostic methods, and the development of vaccines and antifungal drugs with alternative modes of action. Enhanced funding support for research in fungal diseases and awareness of often neglected fungal diseases in people through public health programs will contribute to the reduced threat posed by these diseases. Advancements in industrial and commercial applications of benign fungi will result in improved human life.
Kunta, N., Kunta, M. (2023). Fungi Impacting Human Health. In: Singh, I., Rajpal, V.R., Navi, S.S. (eds) Fungal Resources for Sustainable Economy. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-19-9103-5_22
Fungal Resources for Sustainable Economy