Today’s top story is about the Coronavirus (COVID), and its probable association with invasive fungal super-infections. Now, I know that there are all kinds of conspiracies about the origin of Coronavirus, but this old fart believes its been around for a long, long time, and would like to add his two cents of logic about why the Coronavirus is really to be so feared. Be forewarned, it will involve the use of some ten dollar words. You see, I believe the real danger of the virus is post-influenza fungal infection. I base that on the fact that viruses and fungal infections are naturally occurring organisms that have had an opportunistic relationship for millions of years. Both are well documented as opportunistic infections, especially impacting people with compromised health. And both continue to evolve.
Why COVID Is To Be Feared
What makes the Coronavirus (COVID) likely so dangerous is that it may have mutated to make normally healthy people suddenly susceptible to extremely dangerous lung fungal infections. Now while little is known about the association between invasive fungal super-infections and influenza, we do know that since the use of multiparameter molecular assays to detect respiratory agents began, it’s become very clear that viral infections can trigger the development of fungal superinfections in both immunocompromised and non-immunocompromised patients. And we know that fungal infections can re-occur for years, even lifetimes. In the world of immunology, fungi are basically pathological royalty, deadly dark lords lurking in biological shadows, forever waiting for their opportunity to reveal their power.
Coronavirus May Trigger Secondary Infection
Just for the record, the oldest, and largest known organisms in the world are fungi. They exist in many, many forms, and are literally everywhere in the world. And they are released into the atmosphere where they are disturbed. In fact, almost all of us have fungi living in our bodies all of the time, but they normally lie dormant and cause no harm. However, certain viral infections, like COVID, can ‘open the gate’ for fungal infections to grow, and that’s a very bad thing. Why? Well, despite years of research and much progress in the field, no fungal vaccine is currently available for clinical use, also known as ‘there’s no known prevention’. So today the most effective way of preventing fungal infections in individuals at risk is by avoiding activities that are associated with exposure to the fungi.
There Are Several Fungal Lung Infections
There are currently several fungal lung infections that we know present very real threats to our health. And industrial development of undisturbed terrain is releasing tons of them. A really scary thing about them is that their symptoms are so similar to flus they’re often misdiagnosed with tragic consequences. For example, almost all fungal lung infections have the following symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, painful breathing, fatigue, body aches and pains, and some may include a runny nose and sore throat. Their average onset is from one to two weeks. Sound familiar? When something compromises the body’s natural defenses, they’re very quick to take advantage of the opportunity. And we really, really do NOT want them to get that opportunity, because their death rate is a LOT higher than those of most influenzas, and most of them are already inside us.
Post-Influenza Fungal Infection
One is post-influenza aspergillosis, a lung fungal infection triggered by an influenza (flu) virus. This relatively new clinical entity is often associated with respiratory decline and has a very high rate of mortality. Aspergillus is a filamentous fungus commonly found in the world’s environment and in healthcare settings. It’s transmitted to susceptible hosts via dispersion of conidia (spores) in the air (they are non-mobile and must be dispersed via the wind or other external transport). Conidia are the fungi’s primary method of reproduction. Previously the great majority of people never developed illness from Aspergillus, despite daily inhalation of its spores. That’s because with constant exposure, the normal human immune system has developed natural defenses. However, if those immune defenses become compromised (such as by Coronavirus), post-influenza aspergillosis becomes a very real, and potentially a very deadly possibility.
Mistakenly Diagnosed As Colds Or Flu
Another fungal infection is respiratory histoplasmosis, which also manifests with flu-like symptoms, so people with histoplasmosis have been mistakenly diagnosed with colds, the flu, and even lung cancer. Histoplasmosis is an unusual fungal disease because anyone can be infected, not just people with compromised immune systems. Like tuberculosis, Histoplasma infects healthy hosts, attacks their lungs, and can lie dormant in immune cells for years, later causing reactivation disease. And it’s been known about for quite sometime. Chad Rappleye, PhD, and a microbiologist in the Center for Microbial Interface Biology at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and in the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity at Ohio State’s College of Medicine stated, “This is an unrecognized public health threat that’s needed better treatment options for ‘some time’.”
Gradual Onset Of Shortness Of Breath And/Or Difficulty Breathing
And, yet another is fungal pneumonia (Pneumocystis pneumonia), caused by the yeast-like fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii. Pneumocystis pneumonia is characterized by a gradual onset with shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing. It usually affects a variety of people with weakened immune systems. This disorder may be accompanied with fevers, night sweats, weight loss and dry cough. Dry cough is one distinction from typical pneumonia because spit (sputum) is too thick to become productive, therefore productive cough is not as common in PJP. The PJP fungus can spread to other body organs such as the liver, kidney and spleen as the disease progresses.
Can Require Mechanical Ventilation Assisted Breathing
Yet another fungal infection is Blastomycosis, which affects the lungs (common sites of fungal involvement) and usually takes the form of chronic pneumonia. Symptoms may include a cough accompanied by thick sputum, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and/or rapid heartbeat. In some severe cases of Blastomycosis, Respiratory Distress Syndrome may develop. It’s characterized by excessive deep and rapid breathing (hyperventilation) and insufficient levels of oxygen in the circulating blood (hypoxemia). Affected individuals typically require mechanical ventilation assisted breathing.
The Real Risk Is Not The Virus Itself
So to this old fart’s way of thinking, we aren’t being told the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the Coronavirus, because I reckon that the real risk ain’t the virus itself, but it’s unique ability to unleash murderous microscopic monsters inside of us, dormant killers that have waited a very long time for just the right conditions. Biological assassins that we have no real defenses for, very limited treatment options, no vaccine, and most of the cures that we do have can be more deadly than the infections. Needless to say, COVID is a very dangerous flu not because of the virus itself, but what it can allow to happen to us. So stay healthy with whatever you do, because the last thing in the world that it sounds like we need to do, is to contract that damn Coronavirus flu.
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