GAFFI was launched in Latin America on November 18th at the Escola Paulista de Medicina-UNIFESP. Over 90 participants including representatives of the Minister of Health, Vice-chancellor of the Universidade de Sao Paulo, Prof Eduardo Moacyr Krieger the Vice-President of the FAPESP (Fundação de Apoio a Pesquisa de Sao Paulo), the past-President of the Brazilian Academy of Science, the Vice-president of the Brazilian Academy of Medicine as well as the Past-President of the World Medical Association, Prof José Luiz Gomes do Amaral.
Fungal diseases were highlighted by Prof Helena Nader (President, Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science) and GAFFI Advisor Arnaldo Colombo Prof of Infectious Diseases of Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), who spelt out the global issues and potential for great health improvements with local access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines and better medical training. Prof Jose Osmar Medina Pestana (National Academy of Medicine and Brazilian Society of Organ Transplantation), argued the case for much greater attention to be paid to fungal diseases was forcibly made.40-50 years, yet not where they are now most needed.
The launch of GAFFI follows the recent statement from the World Medical Association which met in Brazil last month recommending national governments to ensure that diagnostic tests for fungal disease and fungal therapies are available for their populations.
After TB, about 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over several years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide and 18,000 patients in Brazil. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work. Candida bloodstream infections are hospital acquired and Brazil has the world’s highest rates and worst survival in children in the world.
Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally because the tools are not available for rapid diagnosis and treatment. Essentially no studies have addressed this problem in Latin America.
Professor Colombo explains: “This is a global plague on an unappreciated scale, with a disproportionate burden in Latin America. While the World Health Organisation has just developed clinical guidelines for doctors for fungal meningitis in AIDS, other critical fungal infections are ignored. The lack of basic fungal diagnostic capability in many Latin American countries is deplorable resulting in millions of avoidable deaths and illness.”
GAFFI President David Denning declared: “GAFFI is here to change this dismal situation in Latin America and elsewhere. While many of the best drugs are available in Latin America, they are too expensive and poorly utilized because of a lack of medical expertise and rapid diagnostic tests.”