Recent discoveries suggest that certain types of fungi that are responsible for severe lung infections have become more widespread in the United States.
The first type of fungi, Histoplasma, responsible for histoplasmosis infections, was previously only found in the Midwest, and sporadically (no pun intended) found in parts of the East and South.
Medicare records from 2007 through 2016 reflect a serious cause for concern: 47 states and Washington D.C. have now reported a significant amount of cases of histoplasmosis. The second type of fungi, Blastomyces, which is responsible for the lung infection blastomycosis, has followed a similar pattern to Histoplasma.
How do these infections occur? People inhale the spores from these harmful fungi, and they attack our immune systems. They do this by attacking B and T cells. The T and B memory cells ultimately remember the pathogen to prevent a repeated infection, and in the meantime, the cytotoxic T cells attempt to destroy the cells that the pathogen has already infected. The infection occurs if the immune system is unable to fight off the pathogens.
Coccidioidomycosis is the third type of lung infection that has become more widespread. Coccidioides fungi used to only exist in the southwest, but have spread throughout the entire Western region of the United States.
Letting these lung infections go undiagnosed can be fatal, so scientists hope that these recent discoveries will push doctors to test for fungi more frequently when confronted with patients that have lung infections.