5 Common Types of Fungal Infections Attacking HIV Patients

5 Common Types of Fungal Infections Attacking HIV Patients

Bumisuka.com – 5 Common Types of Fungal Infections Attacking HIV Patients. As we know, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that can weaken the immune system. When a person is infected with HIV, he or she will be very susceptible to disease or infection, one of which is a fungal infection.

Reported by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fungal infections and other opportunistic infections are a major problem in people with HIV. Although currently the number has decreased dramatically thanks to antiretroviral drugs (ART) and early HIV testing.

Nevertheless, fungal infections are still a concern, because their existence is difficult to avoid in the everyday environment. So, what are the fungal infections that often affect people with HIV? The following is a list that has been summarized from various sources.

1. Candidiasis

Candidiasis is a fungal infection caused by Candida. This fungus is naturally present in the human body and skin. In a healthy immune system, the development of this fungus can be controlled so that it does not cause disease. However, in people with HIV who have a low immune response, the growth of Candida is difficult to control, making it easier to cause candidiasis.

In HIV patients, this infection usually appears in the mouth in the form of canker sores which are characterized by thick white patches on the tongue, or other parts of the mouth and throat. Apart from that, it can also appear in the genital area (vagina) which causes thick white discharge and discomfort such as burning and itching.

In people with untreated or uncontrolled HIV, candidiasis can spread to the esophagus, trachea, bronchi or lungs. Infection in this area is usually classified as a serious condition and is classified as an AIDS-defining condition.

Reported by Clinical Info, the occurrence of candidiasis in this area is referred to as an indicator of immune suppression (suppression of the work of the immune system) which is often observed in people with low CD4 cells (less than 200 cells/mm3). CD4 cells are white blood cells that work to fight infection. As additional information, in healthy people, the number of CD4 cells is between 500 and 1,600 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (cells/mm3).

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2. Cryptococcosis

Cryptococcosis (cryptococcosis) is a fungal infection caused by the fungi Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gatti. This organism usually grows at the base of eucalyptus trees and is often found in bird droppings, especially pigeons. Both, can enter the body or infect humans when fungal spores are inhaled through the respiratory system.

In people with healthy immune systems, cryptococcosis is rare. However, in people with HIV, this infection is quite common (high risk of infection). The Pan African Medical Journal in 2020 even mentions that cryptococcosis is known as an AIDS-defining condition in 60 to 70 percent of people with HIV.

The course of cryptococcosis usually starts in the lungs and spreads to the brain. When it attacks the lungs, this condition usually causes mild symptoms or not seen at all. However, when it spreads to the brain, it can attack the central nervous system and cause cryptococcal meningitis (extrapulmonary cryoptococcal).

Cryptococcal meningitis is what often develops in people with HIV, which the CDC classifies as an AIDS-defining condition. Cryptococcal meningitis is the third most common complication in people with AIDS, as added by the Verywell Health page.

3. Histoplasmosis

Like cryptococcosis, histoplasmosis is a fungal infection caused by inhaling Histoplasma mold spores in the air. These fungal spores are usually found in bird or bat droppings that contaminate the soil or other things.

Although not everyone who breathes in these spores will get sick, those with compromised immune systems can easily develop histoplasmosis. In fact, if it is already infected, this can be a more severe condition.

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Reported by Verywell Health, people with advanced HIV, or with a CD4 count below 150 cells/mm3, can develop histoplasmosis into a chronic lung infection similar to tuberculosis. It can spread far beyond the lungs and affect other organs of the body. For this reason, histoplasmosis is also classified by the CDC as an AIDS-defining condition in people with HIV.

4. Coccidioidomycosis

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as valley fever, is also a type of fungal infection that is common in people with HIV. This condition occurs due to inhaling Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii fungal spores that fly in the air.

When infected with Coccidioides, a person may experience fever, cough and fatigue. This condition is usually mild and can heal by itself in a short time. However, in people with weak immune systems, this condition can become more serious.

In people with HIV, coccidioidomycosis can progress from the lungs to other organs causing skin ulcers, meningitis, bone lesions, and inflammation of the heart. For this reason, this type of infection is also classified as an AIDS-defining condition by the CDC.

5. Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)

According to a CDC report, people with HIV also have a higher risk of developing pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). This is a serious fungal infection that can cause inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs due to inhaling airborne spores of the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii.

PCP sometimes doesn’t cause serious symptoms. However, people with HIV can develop this condition to be severe and require medical treatment. In fact, even with treatment, PCP can also be deadly in people with AIDS, as explained on the WebMD page.

PCP symptoms in people with HIV usually appear slowly. Where this will more quickly affect people who have CD4 less than 200 cells/mm3. Therefore, it is important to maintain a high CD4 cell count to avoid various types of opportunistic infections, such as PCP.

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How to prevent yeast infections in people with HIV

Although it seems difficult to avoid certain types of fungal infections, there are several ways you can do to reduce the likelihood. As reported by the CDC, here’s how to prevent yeast infections in people with HIV:

  • Learn about yeast infections to recognize the symptoms and how to prevent them.
  • Find out about the risks of certain yeast infections. For example, related to the location of the spread of the disease or the number of CD4 cells in the body. For example, valley fever is a common fungal infection that develops in the American Southwest, when you are going to visit that location, you may be even more aware about the risk of transmitting the infection.
  • Get additional medical care if needed which can help diagnose the condition earlier and prevent the disease from developing more seriously.
  • Stay away from some of the factors that are the source or can increase the risk of infection. For example staying away from bird droppings, bat droppings, excessive dust, or even avoiding visiting caves.
  • Use personal protective equipment when doing activities related to land, for example when gardening or cleaning livestock pens.
  • Keeping the CD4 cell count above 200 cells/mm3 is very important to avoid fungal infections and other serious infections.
  • Undergoing ART therapy can also help slow the progression of HIV and reduce the chance of getting an infection.

Yeast infection is a common condition in everyone. However, this may be of particular concern when it occurs in people with HIV because it can develop into a more serious condition. You can apply some of the prevention methods above to reduce the risk, yes.

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