September 23rd to 27th is Fungal Disease Awareness Week, an annual campaign to highlight the vital difference early recognition of serious fungal diseases makes in patient outcomes.
Killing over 1.5 million and affecting over a billion people worldwide, fungal diseases have been the most neglected topic by public health authorities. In the UK, it is estimated that the total burden of serious fungal illness is between 241,525 and 662,987 cases per year, which compares with 228,000 breast and 89,000 colon cancer cases being treated in 2018. Early diagnosis is important, but lack of awareness and specialised knowledge of fungal diseases among GPs, specialists and other health care professionals is problematic. Fungal infections tend to be clinically ‘quiet’ in their early stages and need to be actively sought/looked for. This gap too often leads to misdiagnosis or no diagnosis in patients and results in unnecessary suffering.
The Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI) is one of the organisations working to change this through its advocacy work, which has included lobbying the World Health Organisation (WHO) to place vital lifesaving drugs on the Essential Medicines List (EML), recommending Essential Diagnostic tests and laying out strategic plans to combat fungal infections worldwide.
If given the proper attention and diagnosis, most deaths from fungal diseases are avoidable.