Mushrooms: fungal infections (mycoses)

Mushrooms are good at adapting to their environment. Nevertheless, they usually prefer a certain milieu. They especially like it damp, warm and dark. In Europe in particular, they generally trigger an infection only if there is pre-existing damage, illness or immune deficiency of the host. This is also referred to as "facultative pathogen" in technical terms.

In other latitudes, such as Africa or South America, however, there are also aggressive types of fungus, such as the Histoplasmen, which also lead to disease in healthy people ("obligate pathogen").

Local mycoses and systemic mycoses

Roughly speaking, two types of fungal infections can be distinguished: on the one hand, the more superficial local mycosis of the skin and mucous membranes, and on the other, systemic mycosis, that is, the involvement of internal organs:

  1. Local mycoses: The most common representative is the fungal and nail fungus (mainly by dermatophytes). It is transmitted from person to person, mostly through spores in the small dander, which everyone loses. Therefore, it is particularly common to infect where you walk barefoot and there is a pleasant climate for mushrooms, so swimming pool, sauna and (hotel) shower. Particularly at risk are persons with previously damaged skin or immune deficiency.
  2. System mycoses: systemic mycoses are triggered by yeast or mold and often infest the gastrointestinal tract, lungs or even the brain.

The most common types of systemic mycoses

The most common in Europe are:

  • Candida albicans: In about half of the population, these yeasts can be detected in the gastrointestinal tract. If the defense is weakened, they can spread and cause discomfort. The disease is also known as thrush. At risk are, for example, diabetics, patients with intestinal diseases or people who need to take certain medications (some antibiotics, cortisone). In the affected areas, white deposits appear - for example in the mouth and throat, in the esophagus, in the vagina or - in babies - in diaper area.
  • Aspergillus ("ray fungus") forms poisons in moldy foods (aflatoxins), triggers, for example in AIDS patients, serious clinical pictures. Even after bone marrow and organ transplants or in leukemia, the disease is more common. There is a risk of fungal sepsis, ie a flood of the entire organism with the pathogens present in the blood.
  • Cryptococcus neoformans is widespread, especially in bird droppings and potting soil, is inhaled with dust and can spread to the seriously ill throughout the body, especially in the brain.
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