Opportunistic fusarial infections in humans

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Abstract

Fusarium species are common hyaline soil saprophytes and plant pathogens which have frequently been reported as etiologic agents of opportunistic infections in humans. These infections have usually been limited to superficial mycoses, but recently the number of infections of deep tissues and disseminated infections has greatly increased, especially in patients with an underlying immunosuppressive condition. The characteristic signs of these infections are disseminated skin nodules, fungemia and multiorgan involvement. Frequently, myalgia is also present. Skin involvement occurred in over 80 % of cases of disseminated infections. These lesions are significant because they are readily accessible for biopsy and culture, thus permitting an early diagnosis. The therapy and outcome are dependent on the degree of invasion of the organisms and the status of the host. Identification of the pathogen to genus level is not difficult, but identification to species level requires a greater degree of expertise. Up to now, 15 species ofFusarium have been reported to cause infections in humans and animals. Few patients with disseminated fusarial infections have survived, even after receiving an adequate dosage of amphotericin B, the only antifungal agent that has some effect against these fungi. In vitro susceptibility to amphotericin B is a poor predictor of the clinical outcome of invasive fungal infections. Recovery of the phagocytic mechanisms in the form of rising neutrophil counts appears to be mandatory for clinical resolution. The resolution of neutropenia may be aided by the use of exogenous growth factors. Outside the USA, the majority of cases of disseminated fusarial infection have been reported from Mediterranean or tropical countries.