Fungi are living organisms that feed on organic material. They lack chlorophyll, which is found in plant life, and they reproduce by spore production. Fungi are found in mold, mildew, mushrooms, rust and yeasts. Since they thrive in warm, moist, dark places, they are also found in jock itch, athlete's foot and yeast infections of the vagina. You combat them every day by the balance of "good bacteria" in your body, but if your health is compromised, fungi can travel throughout your system by hitching a ride in your bloodstream. Systemic or septic fungal infections are serious medical emergencies and sometimes fatal.
Chronic sinus infections are the most common cause of fungus in the blood. These are usually caused by a bacterial source, but if antibiotics are taken to kill the bacteria, the fungi can take over very quickly. Mucous membranes are warm, moist and a likely environment for fungus. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found fungi in 96 percent of people with chronic sinusitis. This can be treated with anti-fungal medications and often a surgical procedure where the fungus must be scraped out of the sinuses. If sinus fungal infections spread to the blood, symptoms include fever, chills, shock, delirium, blood clots, jaundice and difficulty breathing. The fungi Aspergilli can travel from sinuses to the brain, liver and kidneys. The rapid spread is usually associated with people that have weak immune systems.
Fungus will often affect a person who is on antibiotics for any length of time. The antibiotics are given to treat a bacterial infection and work quite well. Unfortunately, these medications kill good bacteria along with the bad, inviting the fungus to overgrow, often in the mouth in the form of thrush. Thrush is usually caused by a fungus called Candida, and these aggressive fungi compete with good bacteria for a place in your mouth. If systemic candida occurs, symptoms are fever, shock that is marked by decreased blood pressure and elevated heart rate, respiratory and multi-organ distress, systemic rash and skin peeling.
Diabetics, especially those with unrestricted diets, are more prone to fungus that can be transferred to the blood due to the excess sugar that is in their bloodstream. Quest Diagnostics reports certain fungi flourish in the environment of glucose and lower immune-system functioning that often accompanies diabetes.
Individuals who have cancer and go through chemotherapy are at increased risk for systemic fungi invaders. Chemotherapy is based on medications that kill healthy cells along with the destructive cancer cells. When healthy cells are killed, the immune system is compromised by the killing of white cells, which are the infection fighters in your body. As these cells are rapidly diminished by chemo, virulent fungi can move in and grow very quickly. The most common fungi are Alternaria, Penicillium, Cladosporium, Aspergillus, Candida and Fusarium.
AIDS results in a malfunctioning of the immune system that becomes worse with time. People that live with this disease will often have many areas that house fungi in tissue and blood. Fungus in their bloodstreams is usually life-threatening, according to MIT. Often, antifungal medications are given intravenously for quick absorption.
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Aspergillosis
- DrMirkin.com: Chronic Stuffy Nose, Nasal Polyps and Fungus
- Life Extension: Fungal Infections; Candida
- Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research: How Antifungal Drugs Kill Fungi and Cure Disease
- Quest Diagnostics: Frequent Fungal Infections Info That Will Save You