Histoplasmosis Summary
Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. Symptoms and signs of this infection are fever, dry cough, chills, malaise, sweats, and abdominal pain. Transmission of the infection occurs when people inhale the spores. Most infections resolve on their own, and resistant infections are treated with itraconazole, ketoconazole, or amphotericin B.
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Histoplasmosis facts

  • Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease caused by Histoplasma capsulatum that usually infects the lungs.
  • Although about 90% of infections are asymptomatic, when symptoms occur, they are usually mild, lung-related, and resolve without antifungal therapy.
  • There are three major types of histoplasmosis (acute, chronic and progressive) with subtypes.
  • People with underlying health problems or are immunosuppressed usually develop the more severe cases of the disease.
  • Antifungal drugs are used to treat chronic and progressive types of histoplasmosis.
  • Many complications involving heart, lungs, adrenal glands, CNS, and other organs can occur in some cases of histoplasmosis.
  • Avoiding bird and or bat droppings and dust contaminated with such material may help prevent the disease.

What is histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is a disease, usually affecting the lungs, caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. Although many people that are or have been infected with H. capsulatum do not appear ill, some people in the acute phase of the disease have a dry cough, fever, and chest pains and do feel ill. There are several types of histoplasmosis (acute, chronic, and disseminated, all with subtypes).

H. capsulatum was first described by Samuel Darling in 1906 within human tissue cells (histiocytes). In 1932, Katharine Dodd and Edna Tompkins made the first diagnosis of histoplasmosis in an infant. Since the 1930s, H. capsulatum has been found worldwide, but the majority of cases are found in river valleys in temperate regions of the world and in equatorial Africa (in Africa, H. capsulatum has a variant thick-walled yeast form termed H. duboisii). Often an outbreak occurs in a group of people after a visit to a certain area like a cave that contains bat droppings. In the U.S., histoplasmosis is endemic in the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi river valleys.

Histoplasmosis is the most common endemic fungal infection diagnosed in the U.S. with about 250,000 new cases per year. H. capsulatum can occur in high concentrations in some sources (for example, bird and bat feces). Histoplasmosis has also been named Ohio River Valley fever and bird-fancier's disease. Histoplasmosis can affect other mammals like dogs and cats, but these animals do not transfer the disease to humans or to other animals. Dogs, cats, and other mammals develop symptoms mainly due to lung infections with H. capsulatum that mimic human histoplasmosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/11/2014

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