Health A-Z


Clinical Definition

Fungi such as yeast and mold can act as pathogens or produce toxins, living as parasites on plants and animals. Fungi can cause an inflammatory condition known as a fungal infection.

In Our Own Words

As with bacteria, fungi can be good or bad, and they are virtually everywhere in our environment. A fungal infection is an inflammatory condition caused by a fungus. There are many types that affect different parts of the body; most are not serious.

For example, candida (i.e., a yeast infection) grows in moist areas of the body and can infect otherwise healthy people. Other types of fungus are more problematic in people with weakened immune systems, such as cryptococcosis and aspergillosis. Aspergillosis may be contracted by inhaling fungal spores that may be found found in damp, dusty places like an attic or a construction site.

Hospital-associated fungus infections are the leading cause of bloodstream infections. Plus, community-acquired infections, such as coccidioidomycosis (i.e., “Valley Fever,” which develops from fungi found in the environment), may be increasingly due to climate changes.

Other fungi, such as Cryptococcus neoformans, cause life-threatening illnesses (e.g., meningeal infections) in immunocompromised hosts. Fungal contamination of “sterile” solutions injected directly into vulnerable individuals (thereby bypassing natural defenses) is a source of fungal infection that has periodically gained media attention.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Variable, depending on site and nature of infection
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Mild respiratory illness
  • Hair loss

Related entries

View Terms Beginning with "G"
Follow us on Facebook for useful advice on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.