Histoplasmosis : What is it?

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What is it?

Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection. It can occur in people with healthy and suppressed immune systems. In people with healthy immune systems, it usually does not cause noticeable symptoms, although some people experience flu-like symptoms and mild respiratory problems. In people with suppressed immune systems, it can cause more serious problems, including respiratory distress, kidney and liver failure, and brain damage.

Histoplasmosis is caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum. This fungus is predominantly found in the central United States, especially in the Mississippi and Ohio River areas, the Caribbean, and South America. The infection usually begins in the lungs but can spread to other parts of the body and cause a wide range of symptoms, particular in people with compromised immune systems. People who were infected with H. capsulatum when their immune systems were healthy can develop histoplasmosis years later if their immune systems become compromised.

People can become infected with H. capsulatum upon breathing in soil or dust contaminated with bird droppings that contain the fungus. HIV-positive people with CD4 cells below 150 are at the highest risk of developing either mild or severe histoplasmosis after breathing in the fungus. However, histoplasmosis is not considered to be a common disease among people with AIDS, including those who live in the central United States where H. capsulatum is most common.


Last Revised: July 02, 2009

This content is written by the POZ and AIDSmeds editorial team. For more information, please visit our "About Us" page.

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