Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum . A person can get histoplasmosis when accidentally inhaling air contaminated with these fungal spores. Even so, histoplasmosis is not transmitted between humans.
A person can be infected with histoplasmosis more than once. However, in people infected with histoplasmosis for the second time, the symptoms will not be as severe as the first infection.
In patients with weak immune systems, histoplasmosis can persist in the body for months or even years. Histoplasmosis can also recur and cause repeated infections.
Histoplasmosis generally does not cause symptoms. However, in children and people with weakened immune systems, histoplasmosis can affect the function of various organs of the body, including the function of the central nervous system . This condition, called disseminated histoplasmosis, can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Causes of Histoplasmosis
Histoplasmosis is caused by the spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum . This fungus can live and grow in soil, especially those contaminated with bat and poultry droppings. Therefore, this fungus is easy to find in caves, parks, and chicken and bird coops. This disease is included in zoonotic diseases .
Histoplasma fungus spores that are on the ground can fly in the wind and be carried in the air. A person can get histoplasmosis if the spores of the fungus are accidentally inhaled and enter the respiratory tract.
Risk factors for histoplasmosis
Histoplasmosis can happen to anyone. However, people in the following jobs are more at risk of being exposed to fungal spores that cause histoplasmosis:
- Pest control officer
- Farmers and ranchers
- Construction worker
- Cave explorer
Histoplasmosis is also more at risk of attacking children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems, for example due to:
- Suffering from HIV/AIDS
- Undergoing chemotherapy
- Taking corticosteroids or drugs that suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants)
Symptoms of Histoplasmosis
In most cases, histoplasmosis infection does not cause any symptoms. Symptoms generally only appear if there are many inhaled fungal spores.
If it causes symptoms, complaints usually appear 3-17 days after someone is infected. These symptoms can include:
- Dry cough
- Muscle, joint and chest pain
- Hard to breathe
In people who have a history of lung disease, such as emphysema , histoplasmosis can last a long time (chronic). Symptoms of chronic histoplasmosis are generally similar to those of tuberculosis ( tuberculosis ), namely coughing up blood , excessive sweating, and decreased body weight.
When to see a doctor
Immediately see a doctor if you experience symptoms of histoplasmosis, especially if you have a profession as mentioned above and your immune system is weak. If not treated quickly, histoplasmosis can cause serious complications and be fatal.
Diagnosis of Histoplasmosis
To diagnose histoplasmosis, the doctor will ask questions about the patient's symptoms, the patient's work environment, and whether the patient has been exposed to bird or bat droppings. Next the doctor will carry out a physical examination and suggest further examinations, such as:
- Blood test and urine test
- Sputum , urine and blood cultures
- Biopsy (taking tissue samples) from the lung, liver, skin, or bone marrow
- Scanning with X-rays or CT scans
Mild histoplasmosis patients usually do not require special treatment. In most cases, the symptoms of histoplasmosis will go away on their own within a few weeks or months. However, in severe cases, the symptoms can last longer, especially if the infection is getting worse.
In patients who experience severe symptoms, chronic histoplasmosis, or disseminated histoplasmosis, doctors will give antifungal drugs , such as itraconazole , ketoconazole, or amphotericin B.
The antifungal drugs given can be in the form of tablets or injections, and the drugs can be given for up to 2 years or more, depending on the severity of histoplasmosis.
Histoplasmosis can cause a number of serious complications, especially in children and people with compromised immune systems. These complications include:
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome , which is a condition when the air sacs in the lungs that should be filled with oxygen are filled with fluid
- Damage to the adrenal glands, which are glands that function to produce hormones that regulate metabolism in the body
- Pericarditis or inflammation of the lining covering the heart (pericardium)
- Meningitis or inflammation of the lining of the brain
Prevention of Histoplasmosis
Histoplasmosis is difficult to prevent, especially if you live or work in an area that is prone to infection with the fungal spores that cause histoplasmosis. However, you can reduce your risk of developing histoplasmosis by doing the following:
- Stay away from places where there is a risk of exposure to the fungus that causes histoplasmosis, such as caves and aviaries.
- Flush the soil with water before starting to clean the chicken or bird coop, so the mold doesn't spread through the air.
- Avoid raising birds or chickens if you have weak immune systems.
- Use personal protective equipment , such as a respirator mask, according to work safety regulations.