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Fungal disease:‘The trojan horse’ that threatens the world as deaths reach 150 people per hour

October 14 2014

GAFFI - "The global action fund for fungal infections"  is celebrating its first anniversary this month. The global organisation is now calling on all policy makers and health agencies to wake up to the plight of more than 300 million people worldwide who suffer and die every year from fungal disease. GAFFI was set up in 2013 to highlight what doctors believe is a worldwide catastrophe that is growing year on year, but could be halted with local access to diagnostic tests, antifungal medicines and better medical training.

Fungal infections kill at least 1,350,000 patients with, cancer, TB, asthma, or following AIDS; as well as causing untold misery and blindness to tens of millions more worldwide. Yet, like a Trojan horse its symptoms are mostly hidden, and occur as a consequence of other health problems.
In the UK alone  fungal infections affect around 10,000 people every year and while most patients survive, thanks to appropriate drugs and treatment, many suffer debilitating symptoms and long-term problems. view video here.

Hollywood star and actor, Rupert Everett, is an wellbeing ambassador for GAFFI and  has pledged to help GAFFI raise awareness amongst health professionals and the public. He says: “I understand from the experts that this is complicated and not straightforward. Only when it is too late, is the diagnosis possible on clinical grounds, but even then many (medical) conditions overlap. The tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available in some countries for 40-50 years, yet not where they are now most needed.”

GAFFI’s founding President is Dr David Denning, Professor of Infectious Disease in Global Health at the University of Manchester explains: “Fungal disease is the Trojan horse – the silent, unappreciated global catastrophe on a scale no one has grasped until recently. For example, after TB as many as 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection,(estimated burden 1.2 million worldwide) which slowly progresses to death over a five year period, unless arrested with treatment. Fungal meningitis (link)  and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, this is before treatment for HIV can begin to work.

Cryptococcus neoformans responsible for fungal meningitis
Microscopy of C. neoformans  found in CSF; it can cause fungal meningitis.

“Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally yet the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment for millions of people. Skin fungal infections affect a further billion people worldwide. Severe asthma with fungal allergy could account for half of the 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, yet it is treatable with antifungal drugs.”

In its first year, GAFFI has lobbied and achieved these goals:

  • GAFFI has identified and estimated the burden of fungal disease in almost 40 countries
  • Successfully lobbied the World Health Organisation to include two life-saving antifungal drugs on the Essential Medicines List
  • Convinced the World Medical Association to address governments across the world to improve diagnostics and treatments of fungal diseases

View a full report of GAFFIs 1 year achievements       Full press release  Video may be used unrestrictedly download long version  or shorter version.

News reports from the press: Digital Journal 15/10/14;