Histoplasmosis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Histoplasmosis– This is a medical condition brought on as a result of inhalation of spores of a fungus usually found in droppings of birds. Other names for Histoplasmosis are Caver’s Disease, Spelunker’s Lung; this disease is usually transmitted when these spores get airborne, usually during cleaning.

What is Histoplasmosis?

What is Histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis as stated is a disease which is caused by inhalation of spores of a fungus, which is usually found in bird droppings and is transmitted into humans when these spores become airborne during cleaning activity. It can also be transmitted by soil, which has been contaminated by bird droppings thus farmers and landscapers tend to be at higher risk for developing this disease. Histoplasmosis rarely causes any symptoms; in fact, affected individuals are not even aware that they are suffering from Histoplasmosis, but in some instances especially newborns and those individuals with a weak immune system Histoplasmosis can take a serious turn. There are treatments available to treat even the most serious forms of Histoplasmosis.

Causes Of Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis as stated is caused by spores of a fungus found in bird droppings. This fungus is known by the name of Histoplasma Capsulatum. These spores are very light and can float in air for miles when contaminated soil or other material is disturbed, especially during cleaning. This fungus is especially active in damp conditions hence this fungus is found usually in chicken and pigeon coops, old barns, caves, parks etc. Exposure to bat droppings or bat guano can also cause Histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is in no way a contagious disease.

Risk Factors For Developing Histoplasmosis

The People Who Are At Risk For Developing Histoplasmosis Are:

  • Farmers
  • People involved in pest control
  • People working in poultry farms
  • Construction workers
  • Roofers
  • Landscapers
  • Gardeners
  • Cave Explorers or Splelunkers (Histoplasmosis is also known as Caver’s Disease or Spelunker’s Lung)
  • People with weak immune system like the ones suffering from AIDs are more likely to contract histoplasmosis.

Symptoms Of Histoplasmosis

As stated Histoplasmosis rarely causes any symptoms, but in case if an individual with a compromised immune system or a newborn gets infected then the following symptoms may be observed:

Diagnosis of Histoplasmosis

A confirmatory diagnosis of Histoplasmosis can be a complicated issue. In mild cases, a diagnosis may not be that necessary but it may be extremely crucial in severe cases. The treating physician may order the following combination of tests in order to confirm the diagnosis of Histoplasmosis:

  • Testing lung secretions
  • Blood/urine test
  • Lung tissue biopsy
  • Testing the Bone marrow

Treatment For Histoplasmosis

As stated earlier, there is no treatment required for mild forms of Histoplasmosis, but a definitive treatment is required for people with compromised immune systems and newborns. Treatment is usually done using antifungal agents. These medications are usually available in the form of oral tablets but in case of severe symptoms, treatment is given intravenously.

How Can Histoplasmosis Be Prevented?

  • The best way to prevent Histoplasmosis, especially if an individual has a compromised immune system is to avoid being in places where there is renovation taking place or being near chicken or pigeon coops, old barns, or places where there may be bird droppings present.
  • Another way to prevent this disease is to spray water on soil, which may be contaminated so that the spores become heavy and do not get airborne, especially chicken coops etc.
  • In case if working on the fields or in a landscaping the individual needs to put on a face mask for adequate safety from the fungus.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 12, 2018

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