Histoplasmosis


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Histoplasmosis: Quick Facts

  • The incidence of histoplasmosis in adults aged 65 years and older was 3.4 cases for every 100,000 persons.
  • Histoplasmosis was first discovered in the Canal Zone in Panama by a physician named Samuel Darling over a century ago.
  • capsulatumvar. capsulatum and H. capsulatum var. duboisii are the two types of the fungus Histoplasma that are pathogenic to humans.
  • The H. capsulatum var. capsulatum is usually found in North America and the H. capsulatum var. duboisii is usually found in Africa.
  • Histoplasmosis was in the past often described as the most common mycosis endemic to North America.
  • Histoplasmosis was initially thought to be endemic to a particular part of the world, but in recent years has been increasingly found in many areas of the world.

What is histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by the Histoplasma fungus and generally affects your lungs. It is generally found in the environment, particularly in soil that contains bat or bird droppings. According to studies, in areas where there have been chicken coops, the soil will retain the fungus for many years after the area has been cleared. This is why you must always use professionals to clear the place if you plan to live there. Caves that contain bat droppings or guano are equally highly contaminated with the Histoplasma fungus.

Outbreaks of histoplasmosis have involved anywhere from a handful of people to as many as tens of thousands have been recorded in studies. It could lasts for a few weeks to a month, or even more depending on the severity of the symptoms.

 It is common in the central and eastern states of the United States, particularly Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. There have been infections locally acquired in other areas of the United States as well. Outside the United States, it is also found in areas of central and South America, Australia, Asia, and Africa.

People are infected when they breathe in the fungal spores that drift through the air. The fungal spores travel to the lungs, and the person’s body temperature allows the fungal spores to transform into yeast. The yeast then travels to the lymph nodes. Once it reaches there, it can reach other organs of the body through the bloodstream.

Not all people who breathe in the spores will get the disease. However, if you are unlucky enough to get it, it could lead to fever, cough, and fatigue. In many cases, people do get better without any kind of treatment. However, in some cases, it can spread to other parts of the body and the infection can get serious. This might require hospitalization and treatment.

Symptoms of histoplasmosis

The symptoms of histoplasmosis can manifest up to as late as 17 days after the inhalation of the fungal spores. They can be evident in as little as three days. The symptoms are generally those of flu. The symptoms are:

How long does histoplasmosis last?

Histoplasmosis lasts for anywhere between a few weeks to a month. If your symptoms are severe, histoplasmosis could last longer than that. This is when the lung infection is severe or when histoplasmosis spreads to other parts of the body. In such cases, it generally affects the central nervous system, particularly the brain and the spinal cord. In the case of severe histoplasmosis, you will need hospitalization and further medical care.

Risk factors for Histoplasmosis

Generally, anyone who is exposed to bird and bat droppings can get histoplasmosis. Sometimes it could be your occupation and at other times, your children might be playing in such soil. However, the risk is higher in certain groups for various reasons. Some of these are:

Weakened immune system

HIV AIDS

The immune system of the individual may be weakened due to some diseases like HIV-AIDS. In such cases, the lungs can be easily infected with histoplasmosis. There is a risk of the disease spreading to other parts of the body as well.

Organ transplant

Sometimes, if the patient has had an organ transplant, the immune system will be weak following the surgery. In such cases also, histoplasmosis can develop after the inhalation of the spores.

In rare cases, it is also possible that the patient may receive an organ infected with histoplasmosis. In such cases also, he would get the disease. It could also spread to other organ systems of the body later.

Taking certain medications

If the person has been taking medications for other ailments, there is a risk of developing histoplasmosis due to the weakening of the immune system because of them. Some of these drugs are corticosteroids, TNF-inhibitors, etc.

Infants

Studies show that infants are more susceptible to the illness than others. This could possibly also be because their immune system not being strong enough. Other reasons could also be attributed to it.

 Adults over 55 years of age

Studies show that adults who are over 55 years of age are also more vulnerable to the disease than others. This could again be a case of a weakened immune system with age or other age-related factors. More studies need to be conducted in this age group affected by histoplasmosis to find out why.

Can your pet get histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis can spread to your pets in the same way as it does for humans. Since your pets would be more exposed to the soil, they are at a greater risk of developing histoplasmosis. This is because this way they would be more exposed to the droppings of birds and bats. However, many cats and dogs that are exposed to the fungus never actually get the disease. There are no known instances of birds getting histoplasmosis. You would be concerned about your pet having contracted the infection. So do contact a veterinarian immediately. The symptoms that are present are flu-like symptoms—coughing, lack of energy, and fatigue.

How is histoplasmosis diagnosed?

You can expect your doctor to begin with a few questions and examinations. Your doctor may ask you if you have traveled recently. He might also ask you about your medical history. He will careful note your symptoms and the results from imaging and laboratory tests to arrive at a diagnosis. The laboratory tests that he would recommend for histoplasmosis would be a blood test and a urine test.

The imaging tests that are conducted generally are CT scans of the lungs or chest X-rays. Fluid may be collected from your respiratory tract and a tissue biopsy may also be performed. A tissue biopsy involves the harmless removal of a very small amount of tissue for observation under a microscope. Apart from these imaging tests, he may try to grow the yeast from the Histoplasma in a culture. A culture could take a couple of weeks whereas the results of laboratory tests will be obtained in a few days.

Treatment for histoplasmosis

As discussed, for many people the symptoms of histoplasmosis go away on their own. All the patient needs to do is:

Severe cases of the disease are treated by antifungal medication. Severe instances include chronic histoplasmosis, disseminated histoplasmosis, and ocular histoplasmosis.

Chronic Histoplasmosis

If you have a lung disease, such as emphysema, there is a risk that you could develop a chronic form of histoplasmosis. Signs of chronic histoplasmosis include cough that brings up blood and weight loss. Those with chronic histoplasmosis will be taking antifungal medications such as amphotericin and itraconazole.

These medications will destroy the fungus but will affect the function of both the kidney and the liver. This means that the patient will need to go in for a check-up with the doctor regularly. If there is any impact on the functioning of the liver or the kidney, the doctor will perform appropriate treatment or recommend medications for the same.

Disseminated Histoplasmosis

This is the most severe form of histoplasmosis. It can affect any part of your body including the skin, mouth, adrenal glands, liver, and the central nervous system. The typical symptoms are fever and pancytopenia (reduction of red and white blood cells and platelets). People with disseminated histoplasmosis will require oxygen support during their hospitalization. They may also be administered antifungal medications intravenously to treat the histoplasmosis as well. The doctor also needs to address the underlying immunosuppression that is also present.

Ocular histoplasmosis

In ocular histoplasmosis, the Histoplasma fungus travels from the lungs to the choroid (blood vessels in the retina) and is lodged there. There is damage to the vision of the individual. It is not possible to restore the vision in any way, but it may be possible to prevent further damage to the retina. In order to do this a type of laser based on the principle of photocoagulation is used. Photocoagulation is the process of the use of a laser to coagulate and eventually destroy small areas of the tissue or fuse them together. In this case, the damaged tissue in the retina is removed by laser. This helps any further damage to the retina and further degradation of vision.

Complications of Histoplasmosis

Acute respiratory distress syndrome

In severe cases of histoplasmosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome develops. Acute respiratory distress syndrome happens when fluid fills the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. These air sacs generally contain oxygen. This means that lesser oxygen then enters the bloodstream. Eventually, this deprives the organs of necessary oxygen.

Heart function issues

The inflammation of the lungs and the filling of fluid in them affect the functioning of the heart as well. In addition, the yeast starts to form in the heart valve tissue, which also affects the overall functioning of the heart.

Damage to adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that produce a number of important hormones, two of which are adrenaline and cortisol. Histoplasmosis can cause damage to the adrenal glands and this could in turn affect the production of hormones.

Meningitis

Histoplasmosis can cause meningitis. Meningitis is a viral infection that involves the swelling of the membrane around your brain and spinal cord (meninges).

Prevention of Histoplasmosis

In areas where the fungus is common, such as the central and eastern parts of the United States, it is easier to get the disease. This is because you are bound to breathe in the air containing the fungal spores. If you are a person who has a weakened immune system, you must be very careful.

The immune system may be weakened because of diseases such as HIV-AIDS. It could also happen if the person has been taking medications such as corticosteroids and TNF inhibitors or had a recent organ transplant. As discussed earlier, children and adults over 55 years of age must also be careful. If you are at risk of getting histoplasmosis, then you must avoid certain activities. These include:

  • Soil disturbing activities such as digging or chopping wood
  • Cleaning of chicken nesting sites
  • Tearing down and rebuilding of structures or buildings
  • Exploration of caves

Before moving to a place that may have the Histoplasma fungus, it is a good idea to get a professional company which deals with hazardous waste to clean up the place. They will be trained in how to deal with the bat and bird droppings in a safe manner and dispose of them in a responsible manner.

Final words

Histoplasmosis is a disease that requires medical care and hospitalization if the symptoms are severe. If they are not, the disease usually disappears with proper care at home. It is recommended that you consult a doctor if the flu-like symptoms of the disease turn severe.

A doctor will not only be able to diagnose the extent of damage the disease has caused but also suggest a suitable means of treatment. You can be expected to be cured in a month’s time with proper care in most cases. In some cases, the treatment may be extended to a few months or even a year, which is very rare.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Clear the area with bird and bat droppings by making use of professional cleaning services.
  • Share your medical and travel history and the list of medications you take with your doctor without fail.
  • Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Don'ts
  • Work in areas that have soils with bat or bird droppings without facemasks.
  • Explore caves as they would be having a lot of bat droppings that could easily cause an infection.
  • Take over-the-counter medications without consulting a doctor, especially if you have a medical condition.

 

 

 

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Hysteroscopy_procedure
Hysteroscopy Hysteroscopy is a minimally invasive tool to help specialists view the uterus to diagnose and even treat several…
Jackfruit: Slice your way into higher immunity, better digestion, & more… Native to the South East Asia, the jackfruit is a fruit brimming with thousands of health benefits. Discover…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
HSV-1_IGG
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody & stays in the blood…
Goji berry: A traditional Chinese berry that packs the best of antioxidants Goji berry is an ancient berry that is considered to be power-packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Which means…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
labiaplasty
Labiaplasty Labiaplasty is a surgical procedure to modify the labia minora and the labia majora. Learn about who can…
cytomegalovirus igm test
Cytomegalo Virus (CMV) – IgM Test The CMV antibodies include both IgM and IgG antibodies which are the immune system's response to a CMV…
tonometry
Tonometry Tonometry uses a device called tonometer to measure the pressure inside the eye. This pressure is depends upon…
Coconut sugar: What is it and is it healthier than table sugar? In the long list of things that the wonderful coconut gives us, coconut sugar is another remarkable addition.…
black seed oil benefits
Black Seed Oil: What secret benefits could it bestow on your health? Black seeds or nigella seeds are tiny packets of health brimming with amazing benefits. Find out why should…
Aphasia brain scans
Neuroendoscopy Neuroendoscopy is a minimally-invasive surgery used to treat disorders of brain, spine, head, etc.
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
Gynecomastia or male breast enlargement
Gynecomastia Gynecomastia is the enlargement of the male breasts. Learn about the treatment options, surgeries, and post-op care for…
Ear pain model
Easy and safe tips for ear wax removal you can do at home Cerumen impaction generally occurs when an external object like cotton swabs are used to remove the ear wax.…
The science behind daith piercing: Can it really cure migraine? Since the ear has several pressure points, it is believed that daith piercing activates the vagus nerve and…
breast-surgery-2
Breast Augmentation Breast augmentation is a surgical procedure done to alter the shape and size of the breast. It uses…
Low carb diet
8 appetizing and mouth-watering recipes that every low-carb dieter should try Looking for delicious recipes that will fix your hunger pang without adding those pesky carbs? Look no further…
Threatened abortion
A few facts about threatened abortion A threatened miscarriage indicates an early pregnancy loss. Look out for symptoms like bleeding, vaginal discharge, and pain.
Exercises or diet? Find out the healthiest way to gain weight Tired of being called skinny all the time? Looking for healthy ways to beef up? Why not try…
Sputum test Sputum test is a commonly used diagnostic tool that is used to examine the presence of pathogens in…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
stress depressed anxiety
Are you depressed or just stressed? Know when to see a doctor Why are some people more anxious than others? Is being depressed the same as feeling sad? Have you…
CBC blood test
CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test CBC (Hemogram 6-part diff) blood test refers to the test that measures the number of RBCs, WBCs, etc…
stain blood
Blood in your stool Know the reason for blood in your stool, toilet bowl or tissue and the important steps to take…
post circumcision
Circumcision Check to know everything about open , laser, stapler circumcision, and about preparation, procedure, risks, benefits , and…
Is bronchitis contagious? And how to prevent this infection? It is acute bronchitis that is contagious which means you can contract it from another person or you…
hYdroxycut pills
Hydroxycut: How safe are these so-called weight loss supplements? Hydroxycut is a blend of several different ingredients formulated to promote weight loss; powered by a key weight…
Grass-fed meat
Facts about grass-fed meat Grass-fed meat has a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and are low in fat and cholesterol. They are…
blood elements analysis
Blood Element Analysis Test A blood element analysis is a blood test performed to measure the level of toxic elements such as…
gallbladder diet tomato
Gallbladder surgery :Tips on post-operative care and diet What to eat post a gallbladder surgery? What are the key things to avoid if you had a…
Vitamin b12
Vitamin B12 Test Vitamin b12 is an essential nutrient required for healthy functioning of the nervous system and also development of…
Gatorade: Top things you need to know about this staple energy drink Gatorade is a popular (in fact the most popular) energy drink worldwide. But this power-packed drinks comes with…
blood ketone test
Blood Ketone (D3HB) Test The Blood Ketone Test measures and monitors the levels of ketone in the blood which is usually performed…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
complement c4 test
Complement 4 (C4) Test The Complement 4 or C4 test measures the level of the protein in the bloodstream, and is primarily…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Barium-enema
Barium Enema Barium enema is also known as colon x-ray. Here, the patient is asked to consume small amount of…
Ca 19.9 test
CA19.9 Test CA 19.9 is a cancer antigen that exists on the surface of cancer-causing cells. The levels of CA…
piles
Best treatment for piles in Bangalore All you need to know about piles and piles treatment in Bangalore - the types of treatment available,…
Shilajit: A miracle Himalayan herb for an active and happy life The Himalayas contain more wonders than you thought. Shilajit is a miracle herb that is widely used in…
Tamarind: The top health benefits of this staple Asian ingredient Did you know this sweet and sour pulpy fruit does more than just add a tangy flavor to…
Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
Paleo snack
Paleo snacks Paleo snacks are healthy diet options that emphasize fresh foods and eliminate processed foods, dairy products, and sugar.
edamame
Edamame: How healthy are these green baby beans? Edamame or "immature" soybeans are soft and easily digestable forms of soybeans that are great as an eveyday…
Low fat diets
A complete list of low-fat diets and how to follow them Low-fat diets help you lose weight in a healthy way, but it works only with regular exercise and…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
vdrl test syphilis
VDRL Test The VDRL test is a blood test that is used to diagnose sexually transmitted or venereal diseases, primarily…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
about mediterranean diet
Why you should be adopting a Mediterranean style of diet today Ever wondered why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy? One simple solution to lowering risk of several deadliest…
How can Kegels help you overcome weak pelvic muscles & incontinence? Kegel exercises are pelvic floor strengthening exercises that can help you overcome incontinence issues that rise out of…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
malarial antigen test
Malaria Antigen Test A malaria antigen test is a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that can detect malarial antigens (proteins) in your…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Sushi: health benefits and recipes Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish prepared with vinegared rice served with fish (often raw), vegetables, and other…
botox injection
Botox: Top things you should know before undergoing the procedure Botox is technically a toxic compound that is widely used in cosmetic procedure. But in addition to wrinkle-reduction,…
antiHEV IgM test
Anti hepatitis E virus (Anti HEV) IgM Test Anti HEV IgM test determines the level of the IgM antibodies in the blood, The disease is often…
free thyroxine ft4
Free thyroxine test (FT4) The FT4 or free thyroxine test is used to detect the level of free thyroxine of FT4 thyroid…
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…

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