Global deaths from fungal disease twice previous estimate: Lancet study

06:13 PM Jan 15, 2024 | PTI |

The annual number of deaths from fungal disease worldwide has risen to 3.75 million, double the previous estimate, according to a study using data from over 80 countries, including India.


The research, published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, calculated an annual total at about 6.55 million acute cases.

The updated mortality figures of fungal disease dwarf deaths from other single pathogens, killing six times more people than malaria, and almost 3 times as many than tuberculosis, the researchers said.

The work is the result of a collaboration of over 300 professionals across the world who contributed to published estimates for their country and individual fungal diseases.

Previous estimates were imprecise as many fungal disease exacerbate an existing disorder, itself often severe, such as leukaemia or AIDS, said David Denning, a professor of infectious disease at The University of Manchester, UK.


However according to the study, of the deaths linked to fungal disease, around 68 per cent or 2.55 million were likely to have been directly caused by it.

Around 1.2 million deaths (32 per cent) had other underlying disease, with fungal disease contributing.

”This work is the first global comprehensive annual incidence estimate of fungal disease, yet many gaps and uncertainties remain,” said Denning.

Around a third of 3.23 million chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths worldwide are linked to infection with the fungus Aspergillus, the researcher explained.

Though pulmonary tuberculosis was classified as the cause of death in 1.2 million people in 2019, as many as 340,000 (3.4 lakh) of these could actually be fungal disease deaths, the researchers said.

Of the estimated 311,594 (3.1 lakh) leukaemia deaths globally in 2020, 14,000 (4.5 per cent) could be attributable to aspergillosis, and some to other fungal infections, they said.

Lung and bronchus cancer annual deaths stand at 1.8 million, with the new estimate indicating that aspergillosis is implicated in 49,000 deaths (2.7 per cent) of them.

Candida — another type of fungal infection — is a serious problem in intensive care, complex surgical patients, diabetes, cancer and renal failure, as well as premature babies.

The researchers estimate that about 1.57 million people suffer from Candida bloodstream infection or invasive candidiasis with 9,95,000 (9.9 lakh) deaths (63.6 per cent), each year.

”Our prior estimates of annual mortality were 1.5 to 2 million, yet we now find the probable number dying with or of a fungal infection is double this at about 3.75 million,” Denning added.


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