South American blastomycosis is a potentially fatal, chronic fungus infection that occurs more often in men. The infection may affect different parts of the body, including the lungs or the skin, and may cause ulcers of the mouth, voicebox and nose.
South American blastomycosis occurs primarily in Brazil, although cases crop up in Mexico, Central America, or other parts of South America. It affects men between ages 20 and 50 about 10 times more often than women.
The disease is far more serious than its North American variant (North American blastomycosis), which is endemic to the eastern United States, southern Canada, and the midwest.
South American blastomycosis is known medically as paracoccidioidal granuloma, or paracoccidioidomycosis. The infection has a very long incubation period (at least five years).
Causes & symptoms
South American blastomycosis is caused by the yeast-like fungus Paracoccidioides brasiliensis that is acquired by breathing in the spores of the fungus, which is commonly found in old wood and soil. It may appear very similar to tuberculosis; in fact, both diseases may infect a patient at the same time.
Symptoms include ulcers in the mouth, larynx and nose, in addition to large, draining lymph nodes, cough, chest pain, swollen lymph glands, weight loss, and lesions on the skin, genitals and intestines. There may also be lesions in the liver, spleen, intestines and adrenal glands.
A physician can diagnose the condition by microscopic examination of a smear prepared from a lesion or sputum (spit). Biopsy specimens may also reveal the infection. While blood tests are helpful, they can't determine the difference between past and active infection.
The primary goal of treatment is to control the infection. The best treatment has been amphotericin B. Sulfonamide drugs have been used and can stop the progress of the infection, but they don't kill the fungus.
Scientists are studying new treatments for the fungal infection, including ketoconazole, fluconazole and itraconazole, which appear to be equally effective as amphotericin B, according to research.
The disease is chronic and often fatal. Because blastomycosis may be recurrent, patients should continue follow-up care for several years.
There is no way to prevent the disease.
- Amphotericin B
- A drug used to treat fungal infections.
- Sulfonamide drugs
- A group of antibacterial drugs used to treat infections of the lungs and skin, among other things.
For Your Information
- Cadavid, D., et al. "Factors associated with paracoccidioides Brasiliensis infection among permanent residents of three endemic areas in Colombia." Epidemiological Infections 111/1 (Aug. 1993):121- 133.
- Diaz, M., et al. "A Pan-American 5-year study of fluconazole therapy for deep mycoses in the immunocompetent host." Clinical Infectious Diseases 14 (sup. 1) (March 1992):S68-76.
- National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). PO Box 8923, New Fairfield , CT 06812. (203) 746-6518.
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). 9000 Rockville Pike, Bldg. 31, Rm 7A32, Bethesda, MD 20892. (301) 496- 5717.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Gale Research, 1999.