WHO releases first-ever list of fungal infections that can be threat to public health

Source: The post is based on the article “WHO releases first-ever list of fungal infections that can be threat to public health” published in India Today on 1st November 2022.

What is the News?

The World Health Organisation(WHO) has released the first-ever list of fungal infections — “priority pathogens”.

What are WHO Fungal Pathogens?

WHO fungal priority pathogens list(FPPL) is the first global effort to systematically prioritize fungal pathogens, considering the unmet research and development (R&D) needs and the perceived public health importance.

Aim: To focus and drive further research and policy interventions to strengthen the global response to fungal infections and antifungal resistance.

Classification: The classification is based on the pathogen’s public health impact or emerging antifungal resistance risk:

– Critical Priority Group: It includes Candida auris, which is a highly drug-resistant fungi, Cryptococcus neoformans, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Candida albicans.

– High Priority Group: It includes a number of other fungi from the Candida family as well as others such as Mucorales, a group containing “black fungus”, an infection which rose rapidly in seriously ill people, particularly in India, during Covid-19.

– Medium Priority Group: It includes a number of other fungi, including Coccidioides spp and Cryptococcus gattii.

Recommendations given by WHO FPPL: (1) Strengthen laboratory capacity and surveillance; (2) Sustaining investments in research, development, and innovation and (3) Enhancing public health interventions for prevention and control.

What is the need for this WHO fungal priority pathogens list(FPPL)?

Fungal pathogens are a major threat to public health as they are becoming increasingly common and resistant to treatment with only four classes of antifungal medicines currently available, and few candidates in the clinical pipeline. 

Most fungal pathogens lack rapid and sensitive diagnostics and those that exist are not widely available or affordable globally.

The invasive forms of these fungal infections often affect severely ill patients and those with significant underlying immune system-related conditions. 

Populations at greatest risk of invasive fungal infections include those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, chronic respiratory disease and post-primary tuberculosis infection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the reported incidence of invasive fungal infections increased significantly among hospitalized patients. 

Despite these growing concerns, fungal infections receive very little attention and resources, leading to a scarcity of quality data on fungal disease distribution and antifungal resistance patterns. Hence, in this context, this list becomes significant.

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