Wednesday, December 13

The Three Forms of Histoplasmosis, an Infectious Disease

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There are many types or kinds of infectious disease and one of these is histoplasmosis, which is caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum.  Often, the fungus is present in soil adjacent to pigeon lofts and chicken houses.  There is, however, no clear indication that histoplasmosis can be transmitted from animal to man or from one person to another.

This infectious disease begins at the lungs and the infection may spread to other parts of the body.  Medical records show that histoplasmosis occurs most commonly in the Mississippi Valley; about a third of those affected are children.  The degree at which histoplasmosis affects the body ranges from being so mild as to pass unnoticed to being so severe as to cause death.

Histoplasmosis occurs in three forms:  primary acute, disseminated, and chronic cavitary.  In the primary acute form, the lungs are principally involved.  Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain (on breathing), cough, hoarseness, and even blood spitting.  The affected person feels ill, with fever, chills, and muscle pains; loss of weight is also usual in this form of histoplasmosis.  The patient usually recovers rapidly.

In the disseminated form of this infectious disease, the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body.  Symptoms, depending upon the body organs involved, include fever, anemia, liver and lymph gland enlargement, and loss of weight.  Except for the benefit of newer treatment methods, this form of histoplasmosis is said to carry a mortality of about eighty percent.

It is not certain whether the chronic cavitary form of histoplasmosis is caused by a new infection or is a consequence of either of the two other forms earlier mentioned.  This form can be easily confused with tuberculosis as it mimics this lung disease quite closely; cavities form in the lung tissue.  Symptoms include breathing difficulty, chest pain, cough, blood spitting, loss of weight, and a low-grade fever much like that in tuberculosis.

The primary acute form of this infectious disease is usually harmless, and the affected person recovers rapidly.  Giving care to the patient calls for contributing to his/her comfort.  Since the discovery of the antifungal antibiotic called “amphotericin B” (an example is the brand name Fungizone of Bristol-Myers Squibb), the outcome has become much more favorable in the case of the two other more serious forms of histoplasmosis.  The medicinal substance is injected into the vein of the patient; a physician must closely supervise the treatment program.


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