More than one million people worldwide die from fungal infections each year, according to Prof Neil Gow from the University of Aberdeen.
Scientists are calling for fungal infections to be considered a priority as there is yet to be any vaccines or new treatments for these infections.
Doctors in England have issued the warning following the outbreak of a new strain of fungi that is causing outbreaks in hospitals.
There are more than five million different types of fungi, and although like Prof Gow says “nobody’s ever died from athlete’s foot”, there are three major groups that caused the majority of deaths in humans.
The three main groups of killer fungi are:
- Aspergillus, which affects the lungs
- Cryptococcus, which attacks the brain
- Candida, which infects the mucosal membranes in the mouth and genitals
Health officials have warned that a new strain of Candida auris has caused an outbreak in one hospital in south-east England and affected 40 patients.
The Candida auris infection was first found in Japan in 2009 and has now been detected across Asia and South America.
Public Health England said “Candida auris appears to be unlike other pathogenic yeast species in its propensity for transmission between hospital patients”.
They continued to warn that it was resistant to the first choice anti-fungal drug.
The infections are more dangerous for those with weakened immune systems, such as HIV, or in cancer patients receiving treatment, or those who are taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.
These patients are more susceptible to infection.
“…a million people die a year from fungal infections and we need to understand these different types of infection and how to deal with them”, continued Prof Gow.
Dr Berit Muller-Pebody, from Public Health England, said: “Candida auris appears to be unlike other pathogenic yeast species in its propensity for transmission between hospital patients
We needed to make the healthcare community aware of it as [doctors] now need to identify the species of Candida that require a more proactive approach.”