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  Fungal infection

Fungus is one of the four major pathogens or disease-causing microorganisms which are a type of plant that can infect people. Some examples of fungi are the group of yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. Certain fungi reproduce by spreading microscopic spores which can be often present in the air (air-borne), where they can be directly inhaled or come into direct contact with the skin surfaces of a person's body. Fungal infections usually begin in the lungs or on the skin (the largest organ system of the human body). With the exception of those superficial fungal skin conditions, other forms of fungal infections are rarely transmitted from one individual to another.

Fungal infection Skin diseases
Fungal infections

Many fungal infections develop slowly and produce mild problems, hence; several months or years may pass before a person seeks medical care and attention. Certain types of fungi known as yeast-like elements are the group called Candida albicans. Candida is normally present on body surfaces or in the intestines but they are considered to be harmless organisms. However, in certain cases these fungi sometimes cause local infections of the following areas: skin and nails called dermatomycosis and onychomycosis respectively; vaginal area (vaginal candidiasis), mouth (oral candidiasis also known as oral thrush) or sinuses. Seldom do they cause any serious harm to the body or life threatening situations except for those people with a weak immune system.

The Term mycosis, singular form of mycoses refers to conditions in which fungi pass the resistance barriers of the human or animal body and establish fungal infections. The classifications of mycoses are according to the initial tissue levels colonized by the fungi namely: 1. superficial mycoses (limited to the outermost layers of the skin and hair). 2. cutaneous mycoses (involving deeper layers of the skin including keratinized structures such as invasive hair and nail diseases) 3. subcutaneous mycoses (involving subcutaneous tissues, muscle, and fascia) which are chronic infections that are more difficult to treat and may even require surgical interventions such as debridement (removal of necrotic or dead tissues and cell debris) 4. Systemic mycoses due to primary pathogens that are virulent and primarily originate from the lungs and may spread to many organs. 5. Systemic mycoses due to opportunistic pathogens causing infections among patients with immune deficiency problems who would otherwise not be infected if their immune system is competent. Examples of conditions with weakened immune system include AIDS, imbalance of normal flora caused by prolonged intake of antibiotics, patients undergoing immunosuppressive and chemotherapy for those with transplanted organs and metastatic cancer respectively. Examples of opportunistic mycoses include Candidiasis, Cryptococcosis and Aspergillosis. In these particular cases, the fungi tend to be more aggressive and virulent (also known as “opportunistic”) spreading rapidly to different organs in the body and often cause death. Some other fungal infections, for example: histoplasmosis, blastomycosis, and coccidioidomycosis can cause serious infections even in otherwise healthy or immunocompetent people.

When normal balances that keep fungi harmless are altered, infections set in. For example, when a person takes antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, the helpful or good bacteria normally present in the digestive tract and vagina that limit the growth of certain fungi in those areas are killed. Therefore, this will result to overgrowth of fungi because the supposed to be good bacteria which normally keep the fungi in check are not around already. The resulting overgrowth of fungi can cause mild symptoms, which usually resolves once the equilibrium is restored when the good bacteria grow back.

Several antifungal drugs are available and effective against most fungal infections but the structure and chemical makeup of fungi make them difficult to eradicate. Most of the antifungal drugs are prescribed in its topical form which is applied directly to a skin or surface of the affected area, such as the vagina or the inside of the mouth. This is due to the fact that most fungal infections are superficial in nature. Clotrimazole is a common antifungal drug used for both humans and animals and are locally prepared as cream, ointments or ear drops. A common general ending of most antifungal agents is –AZOLE. Some more serious systemic fungal infections require oral and injectable antifungal medications.

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