Growing Concern Over Fungal Infections and the Urgent Need for New Drugs and Fungicides

The threat of fungal infections is a growing concern as the need for new drugs to combat these diseases becomes increasingly urgent. The race to develop new drugs is complicated by the equally urgent need for new fungicides to treat diseases in crops.

Last summer, the Food and Drug Administration denied an application for a new antifungal drug called olorofim, sending it back to the company with a request for more data. If approved, it would have been the first time since the early 2000s that the FDA cleared an antifungal that works in an entirely novel way.

In recent years, the potential danger fungal infections pose to human health has become more and more apparent, as fungi either evolve to evade treatments or spread beyond their typical geographical regions. Doctors around the world are desperate for new medicines to combat the growing threat.

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist and chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, emphasized the severity of the issue. According to him, the problem with fungal diseases has reached a critical point, with the World Health Organization recognizing it as a widespread threat. In late 2022, the WHO published their first-ever list of fungal priority pathogens — 19 fungi the agency said pose a significant threat to human health.

The list includes the highly drug-resistant yeast Candida auris, which infects critically ill hospital patients. The number of infections in the U.S. tripled in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coccidioides, a fungus that causes an infection called Valley fever, is also on the WHO’s list. Historically found in the southwestern U.S., scientists have predicted that its range could spread north to the Canadian border and east to the Great Plains by the end of the century.

The situation is further complicated by the impact fungi can have on the global food system. Fungi thrive in soil, and fungal diseases pose a significant threat to crops, emphasizing the need for new fungicides to protect the global food supply.


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