Fungal pneumonia is an infection caused by different types of fungi that attacks the lungs. It accounts for only a very small portion of reported pneumonia cases each year. However, fungal pneumonia has a mortality rate as high as 90% in patients with a compromised immune system. Endemic fungi are mostly found along riverside areas and valleys, as well as many regions near the equator. Exposure to different types of animal feces, such as from birds or rodents, also risks contact with endemic fungi, as does any contact between soil and open wounds. Opportunistic fungi take advantage of patients that are already suffering from immune diseases or any congenital conditions. Much information has already been unearthed about fungal pneumonia, such as its numerous possible pathologies, symptoms, and treatment.
Fungi are able to enter the body through spore inhalation, where they are then transported throughout the lungs and become nested amongst its cells. The immune system proceeds to send white blood cells to attack these spores, thus producing the bodily reactions that are associated with pneumonia symptoms. There are a wide variety of fungi that may cause pneumonia, such as Histoplasma capsulatum, which causes an infection known as histoplasmosis. Coccidioides immitis is an endemic fungus that is usually found in soil and leads to coccidioidomycosis. The opportunistic fungus Aspergillus causes Aspergillosis, which commonly strikes tuberculosis patients.
Patients with fungal pneumonia exhibit many of the common symptoms of pneumonia. Some of these include cough, fever, wheezing, fatigue, and chills. They experience a rapid increase in heart rate, known as tachycardia, and abnormally fast breathing, called tachypnoea. Additional effects to the lungs include pleural effusion, wherein the fluid builds up in the cavity surrounding the lungs and restricts breathing. Further breathing problems occur due to bronchial obstruction which can be caused by a considerable swelling of the lymph nodes in the thorax. In addition, other symptoms develop outside of the lungs, such as lesions on the skin and retinas, swelling, and regular joint pains. Meningism signs also manifest, which include constant headaches, stiffness of the neck, and photophobia, or an intolerance of bright sources of light.
There are a variety of methods used to diagnose fungal pneumonia. The most direct method is to analyze a sample of the fungus obtained from respiratory fluids within the patient’s lungs and determine its culture. Blood and urine samples may also be isolated and observed. Patients may also receive an MRI or CT thorax scan to try to identify the type of pneumonia early. Biopsies are the most typically used invasive diagnostic procedure, examples of which include transthoracic fine-needle biopsy, open lung biopsy, bone marrow biopsy, and skin lesion biopsy. A novel, non-invasive new approach developed recently by a team of researchers involves taking a sample of the patient’s breath for chemical signs of the source microorganism. Doctors attempt to affix a distinct chemical signature in the studied samples that helps pinpoint fungal pneumonia. This method is particularly effective in detecting invasive aspergillosis.
Fungal pneumonia may be treated with a variety of antifungal drugs and medication, including bifonazole, oxiconazole, albaconazole, amorolfin, and voriconazole. Prophylactic fungal agents, such as fluconazole, are also helpful in fight infections. Treatment for patients with opportunistic fungal infections involves treating their original immune disorder. Some of these methods include assuring neutropenia recovery, withdrawing of immunosuppressive medications, and removing infected catheters. Patients should also avoid engaging in activities that could expose them to further fungal spores, like gardening, cleaning, and any other activities that involve prolonged contact with related kinds of environments.