Drug resistance in human pathogenic fungi
- Cite this article as:
- Iwata, K. Eur J Epidemiol (1992) 8: 407. doi:10.1007/BF00158576
Since the therapy of the mycoses, particularly the systemic mycoses, is relatively long-term in nature, emergence of resistance to antifungal drugs during the treatment of period would be of considerable clinical importance. However, most reports of resistance to antifungal agents among human pathogenic fungi indicate that naturally-occurring resistance is very rare, and that the induction of resistant mutants or variants is much more difficult to achieve in vitro and in vivo than with bacteria. As a matter of fact, amphotericin B and some other classic antifungals have not as yet posed a broadly significant problem relative to drug resistance despite their widespread and frequent use. Fungal resistance has thus received little attention, in contrast to the critical importance of bacterial resistance frequently caused by a variety of antibacterial chemotherapeutic agents, until a single exception to this generalization arose with the advent of flucytosine. This new development has aroused great interest in the problem of fungal resistance among the scientists involved with medical mycology. It is generally believed that fungi, like bacteria, are intrinsically capable of developing resistance to antifungal agents. As illustrated by flucytosine, inherently resistant mutants to antifungals occur within sensitive strains of human pathogenic fungi with significant frequency. Given the relatively high degree of such primary resistance, these mutants should develop secondary resistance during therapy, thus resulting in considerable limitations in the clinical usefulness of the antifungals. Virtually, all unsuccessful cases of mycoses treated with some of the recently exploited antifungal drugs, albeit scarce to date, would obviously be attributable to the occurrence of secondary resistance. The exploitation of new antifungal drugs thus requires investigations of their resistance as one of the most important research projects to be undertaken before receiving approval for use on humans. This paper reviews from various aspects the literature on resistance to various classic and novel antifungal agents among human pathogenic fungi. The resistance of some nonpathogenic fungi to these agents will also be described from genetic and biochemical points of view.