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Truly lethal, and growing more so, are fungal infections

The widely anticipated television adaptation of The Last of Us has been drawing in millions of viewers each week. The show depicts a dystopian future when society has crumbled after an epidemic of a deadly fungus infection that controls the brains of its victims and causes them to become violent cannibals.

The deadly fungus is modeled on the real-life Cordyceps zombie fungus, which infects insects. Infected insects' nervous systems are taken over by the Cordyceps fungus, which then grows out of their bodies.

While the likelihood of a rapid fungal pandemic is low, this does not mean that fungi are not a cause for concern.

Exciting fungi

It is believed that there are three million unique species of fungi in the world.

Most fungus cannot thrive at 37 degrees Celsius, the average temperature within the human body. They prefer temperatures closer to 10. Because of this, most human fungal infections occur only on the skin's surface, where it is colder (think athletes foot and ringworm). This is also why just a small fraction of the fungus world poses a threat to human health.

But some types of fungi can only thrive in higher temperatures, and they're the ones that spread deadly illnesses. Some yeasts, like Candida, are normally found in the human microbiome and only become a problem when they break out into the bloodstream and other body systems in response to an infection or other significant illness (such as cancer).

New challenges may arise as a result of climate change, as one of the characters in The Last of Us indicates. Fungi have to change in response to rising temperatures worldwide. This could lead to a rise in the diversity of organisms capable of causing life-threatening diseases in humans. Some data point to the possibility that this is already taking place.

Candida auris, for example, is quite worrisome because it is resistant to practically all antifungal medicines. Patients with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to its rapid spread throughout healthcare facilities.

Similar to sepsis, these fungal infections spread throughout the body and impede organ function once they reach the bloodstream. Candida auris, however, stands out due to its tolerance of temperatures as high as 42 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for industrial use.

Researchers believe that the warming global temperature may have helped to the spread of Candida auris, which has appeared on three continents practically simultaneously. It remains to be seen if a rise in global temperature causes an increase in the prevalence of deadly fungal superbugs.

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Infections due to fungi

Fungi may be able to grow in warmer temperatures, but they are not as likely to transfer from person to person as viruses are.

In contrast to many other infectious diseases, most fungal infections cannot be transmitted from one person to another. This is due to the fact that susceptible individuals, such as those with compromised immune systems, are disproportionately affected by fungal infections.

Because of how fungal infections begin, they also tend not to transfer from person to person. Inhalation of airborne fungal spores is the initial step in the development of many life-threatening fungal infections. We breathe in hundreds of fungal spores every day, yet we rarely become sick because our immune systems are so good at eliminating them.

Different forms of fungal cells that cause infection can be formed if spores germinate in the lung and the immune system fails. Although we can inhale fungal spores, there is no evidence to suggest they will also release airborne spores once inside our lungs.

The lung is a common entry point for serious fungal infections that can ultimately spread to other organs, including the brain. One of the deadliest types of fungal infection is one that manifests in the brain. The fungal infection known as cryptococcal meningitis is responsible for the vast majority of these cases.

Each year, it claims the lives of about one hundred thousand people. Humans are rarely killed by any other type of fungus.

Inhaling fungal spores causes cryptococcal meningitis in people with a compromised immune system, most commonly due to HIV/AIDS. Although the mechanism by which the fungus makes its way from the lungs to the brain is poorly known, it does so. After entering the brain, the virus causes symptoms such as a high temperature, blurred vision, and convulsions.

Anti-fungal medicines can cure the infection, but they're too costly for most people who might benefit from them. Resistance in Cryptococcus fungus to various anti-fungals is also possible.

No, we probably don't have to worry about zombie Cordyceps fungi adapting to infect humans like it does in The Last of Us any time soon, though there are fungal infections that can move to the brain.

Cordyceps cannot simultaneously infect our brain and nervous system because it is not designed to grow at our internal body temperature and cannot compete with our immune system, which is far more sophisticated than an insect's. To evolve past this barrier would take countless millennia.

There is still cause for fear despite the low probability that fungal infections may result in a global pandemic or zombie apocalypse. Over the past fifty years, there has been an increasing incidence of fatal fungal infections. This is worrisome because antifungals are significantly less common than antibiotics, severely limiting our ability to treat fungal infections.

Fungi and human bodies have comparable biochemistry, making it difficult to develop these medicines. Also, we're in danger since drug-resistant fungus are on the rise. Fungi pose a serious threat, and it's evident that more attention should be paid to this issue before it's too late.

Disorders Caused by Skin Fungi

What Is a Fungal Infection, Exactly?

Mycosis, or fungal infection, is a skin ailment caused by a fungus.

Fungi are extremely diverse, numbering in the millions of species. They are ubiquitous, making their homes in soil, on plants, in furniture, and even on human flesh. Occasionally they cause visible signs on the skin, such as rashes or pimples.

Symptoms of a fungal infection

Skin fungal infections can lead to a variety of symptoms.


Rash, scaling, and redness of the skin

Irritating, Pustule-Forming Blisters

Varieties of Fungal Infections

The body as a whole is fair game for fungus. Athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm, and yeast infections are some of the most prevalent.

Athletic Foot

A fungal infection of the foot is known as athlete's foot or tinea pedis. Fungi thrive in dark, warm, and damp environments like shoes and socks, as well as pools, locker rooms, and public showers. During the summer especially in hot, humid settings, they are common. Those who wear narrow shoes, don't change their socks after exercising, and frequent public showers are at a higher risk.

Athlete's foot results from

Athlete's foot fungi feed on the dead skin, nails, and hair on your body. The infection can be caused by at least four different types of fungi. Trichophyton rubrum dominates as the most typical form.

Symptoms of athlete's foot

Athlete's foot symptoms can look different from one individual to the next. Some of the following scenarios could have played out:

Feet that are peeling, fracturing, and scaly.


Flaky, irritated, or otherwise damaged skin

Athlete's foot can cause itching and burning.

Interdigital. Infection of the toe web is another name for this condition. This is the most common type of athlete's foot. It typically manifests itself between the two tiniest toes. The infected area may eventually expand to the bottom of the foot.

Moccasin. Symptoms of this type sometimes present themselves first as irritation, dryness, itching, or scaling. Skin can thicken and crack with age. The infection may start in the toes and spread to the sole of your foot.

Vesicular. This strain of athlete's foot is the most uncommon one. In many cases, it manifests initially as a cluster of fluid-filled blisters on the bottom of your foot. They may also show up on the top of your foot, between your toes, or even on your heel.

Prognosis of the Athlete's Foot

Tinea pedis, more often known as athlete's foot, is a cutaneous fungal infection that typically manifests itself between the toes. In most cases, this is the result of a person's feet becoming overheated and sweaty due to the confinement of their shoes.

Athlete's foot emerges as a red, scaling rash that is extremely irritating. Infected surfaces, linens, and articles of clothing can easily spread the disease.

Fungus is not always the culprit in cases of itching, scaling feet. In order to rule out other potential health issues, your doctor may scrape off a small area of skin to examine more closely under the microscope.

Medication for athlete's foot

Your physician may prescribe an antifungal cream or, if the infection is severe, an oral antifungal medication. Maintain a clean, dry environment for your feet.

How to avoid getting athlete's foot

Avoid contracting athlete's foot by always using shower sandals in public showers, wearing shoes that allow your feet to breathe, and washing your feet daily with soap and water. The best way to care for your feet is to dry them well and then powder them with a high-quality foot powder.

Jock Itch

Tinea, a fungus, is responsible for most cases of jock itch. Tinea cruris is a common name for this condition. Tinea thrives in warm, moist places, such as the genitalia, inner thighs, and buttocks. Summertime and humid temperatures are more conducive to infection.

Jock itch manifests as a red, ring-shaped rash that causes intense discomfort.

Are cases of jock itch infectious?

The infectiousness is low. Direct contact between hosts or indirect contact via infected objects is sufficient for transmission.

Symptoms of a Jock Itch

Symptoms of itching, chafing, or burning in the groin or upper thigh.

A rash that is red and round with elevated edges.

Skin irritation and redness in the groin or thigh.

Exfoliating, peeling, or cracking.

Diagnosis of a Skin Jock Itch

In most cases, a doctor will be able to tell what it is just by looking at it and determining where it is located on the body. They might take a skin sample and examine it under a microscope just to be sure.

Cure for jock itch

Jock itch is usually treatable with over-the-counter antifungal medications. You may require a medicated cream prescribed by your doctor if the condition is severe.

It is important to remember to: 

It is important to remember to: 

Antifungal medication should be used as prescribed.

Keep a daily rotation of clean clothes, especially underwear.


Tinea corporis, most often known as ringworm, is actually a fungal skin condition rather than a worm. The rash has the appearance of a ring with an undulating, wormlike edge, hence the name.

Can you spread ringworm to others?

Direct contact with infected individuals or animals is a major vector for the transmission of ringworm. It is also transferable via contact with fabric or upholstery. Warmth and dampness can facilitate the disease's spread.

Signs of ringworm

Red, flat, circular sores caused by ringworm often accompany flaky skin. It's possible that only the skin around the sore is elevated, but the skin in the centre seems absolutely fine. It is possible for red rings or patches to overlap.

Treatment and diagnosis of ringworm

Your symptoms will help your doctor make a diagnosis of ringworm. The question of whether or not you've come into contact with infected humans or animals may be raised. Taking samples from the area to analyse further under a microscope is another option.

Curing a case of ringworm

Antifungal creams or ointments are commonly used in treatment:

An OTC lotion like Clotrimazole might do the trick (Lotrimin, Mycelex

Terbinafine (Nizoral)Miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-Derm) (Lamisil)

More serious conditions may require topical or oral prescription drugs.

Cases of Yeast Infections

Cutaneous candidiasis refers to an infection caused by yeast on the skin. Candida is a type of fungus that can cause infections when it multiplies out of control. A yeast infection is not communicable.

Infections tend to manifest in wrinkled, crinkly parts of the body where it is warm and wet, such the armpits and groin. Overweight and diabetic folks are more likely to experience them. Antibiotic users are also at increased danger.

Babies' diaper rashes may be caused by Candida. Nail, genital, and oral infections are also possible (oral thrush).

Indicators of a yeast infection

Skin symptoms of a yeast infection might include:


Continually leaking patches

Papules and bumps

Itching or burning

Indicators of a nail-bed yeast infection include:





Symptoms of thrush (oral yeast infection) include:

Painful white patches on tongue and inside cheeks.

Yeast infections in the vaginal area can be identified by their telltale symptoms.

A vaginal discharge is white or yellow

Itching, redness, burning, and discomfort around the exterior vaginal area.

Diagnosis of a yeast infection

Your doctor will do a full physical and medical history interview. They may also extract a sample from the affected area to examine under a microscope.

How are fungus infections treated

The appropriate treatment is infection-specific. Most cases of yeast infections of the skin are easily remedied with topical treatments. Medicated suppositories are a common treatment for vaginal infections. Oral thrush can sometimes be treated with a medicated mouthwash or dissolvable lozenges. Oral anti-yeast medicine may be required for those with compromised immune systems or persistent infections.

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