Global Plague: How 150 people die every hour from fungal infection while the world turns a blind eye
November 08 2013
Launch of GAFFI in London and New York- is supported by acclaimed actor Rupert Everett. GAFFI is to raise awareness of the scale of the challenge across the world
Neglected by policy makers and most international health agencies, wednesday saw the launch of Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI), an international organisation set to highlight the plight of 300 million people worldwide and begin to reverse unnecessary death and suffering.
Fungal infections kill at least 1,350,000 patients with or following AIDS, cancer, TB and asthma as well as causing untold misery and blindness to tens of millions more worldwide. Yet its symptoms are mostly hidden and occur as a consequence of other health problems, and the tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available for almost 50 years.
In the House of Commons, in London* - and simultaneously in New York - GAFFI was officially launched. In London David Denning GAFFI’s founding President was supported by poetry read by Rupert Everett and an evocative video of Katie Melua’s song “I want to kill you”. GAFFI is highlighting the global issues and also the potential for great health improvements including local access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines and better medical training worldwide.
Rupert Everett at GAFFI launch
Multiple chilling statistics were recounted by the speakers (Prof David Denning in London; Profs David Perlin, Liise-Anne Pirofski and David Warnock in New York). For example, TB about 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over several years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work
Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally because the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment. Skin fungal infections affect a billion people worldwide. Severe asthma with fungal allergy contributes to half of the 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, yet it is treatable with antifungal drugs. With tuberculosis about 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which progresses to death over several years, unless arrested with treatment affecting an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide.
Professor Denning GAFFIs President explains: “GAFFI is here to change this dismal situation globally. While many of the best drugs have been available for years, they are too expensive and poorly utilized because of a lack of medical expertise and rapid diagnostic tests.”
GAFFI is a registered International Foundation based in Geneva, focused on four major tasks related to serious fungal infections. These are:
- · Universal access to fungal disease diagnostics for serious fungal disease
- · Universal access to generic antifungal agents
- · Better data on the number and severity of fungal infections
- · Health professional education related to better recognition and care for patients with serious fungal disease.
The launch of GAFFI comes hard on the heels of a statement from the World Medical Association’s annual meeting in Brazil last month urging national governments to ensure that diagnostic tests and fungal therapies are available for their populations.
Rupert Everett has pledged to help GAFFI raise awareness among health professionals and the public. Rupert Everett read 4 poems: ‘Breathing’ by Mark O’Brien; ‘Sleepcombing’ by Bob Devereux; ‘Aspergillus in a well loved pillow’ by Caroline Hawkridge; and ‘Hope is….’ a group poem by patients at the National Aspergillosis Centre. He says: “ I understand from the experts, that fungal diseases tend to be complicated requiring specialised diagnostic skills. Only when it is too late is the diagnosis possible on clinical grounds, but even then many conditions overlap. The tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available in some countries for 40-50 years, but not where they are now most needed.”
But experts believe the tide could be turning: The launch of GAFFI comes hard on the heels of a statement from the World Medical Association’s annual meeting in Brazil last month urging national governments to ensure that diagnostic tests and fungal therapies are available for their populations.
Lord Turnberg former chairman of the Royal College of Physicians addressed the audience summing up the need for change and improvement in recognising and treating these serious fungal infections on a global scale.
Paul GogginsMP, Prof David Denning and Lord Turnberg at GAFFI launch in the House of Commons.
David Warnock addresses the GAFFI Launch at the New York Academy of Science
GAFFI has a stellar international Board and Advisor group from the UK, USA, Brazil, India, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Japan to guide the foundation’s work as it begins its many tasks to rescue patients. www.GAFFI.org.