Fungal diseases are caused by a wide variety of fungi that are commonly found in the environment. Invasive fungal infections rarely occur in healthy people, but fungi can cause serious infections in individuals with weakened immune systems.
Fungi live outdoors in soil and on plants and trees as well as indoor surfaces and human skin. There are millions of different species of fungi, but only a fraction of those are known to make people sick. Anyone can get a fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot or a toenail infection, but people with weakened immune systems are more likely to get serious fungal infections.
Why Is the Study of Fungal Diseases a Priority for NIAID?
Fungal diseases are a growing threat to human health. While healthy people rarely suffer from serious fungal infections, people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer patients, organ and stem cell transplant patients, and hospitalized patients are vulnerable to infection. There are only four classes of antifungal drugs, and fungal strains resistant to these drugs are emerging. Currently, there are no approved vaccines to prevent fungal infections. In 2017, fungal diseases in the United States cost more than $7.2 billion and resulted in more than 75,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How Is NIAID Addressing This Critical Topic?
NIAID is conducting and supporting basic research to understand how fungal pathogens cause disease and how the immune system responds to infection. NIAID is also conducting and supporting the science to find new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent fungal infections.