WHO releases first-ever list of fungal priority pathogens

The World Health Organization (WHO) published the first list of fungal priority pathogens yesterday, identifying 19 fungi “that represent the greatest threat to public health” and highlighting the immediate need for research.

The WHO fungal priority pathogens list (FPPL) was created with the goal of prioritizing and driving additional research and policy measures, in order to boost the worldwide response to fungal infections and antifungal resistance.

“Fungal pathogens and infections are an increasing global public health concern. People most at risk are those with underlying health problems or a weakened immune system, such as chronic lung disease, prior tuberculosis (TB), HIV, cancer, and diabetes mellitus,” WHO says in the FPPL report.

The priority list

Source: WHO FPPL report.

The 19 priority fungal pathogens were identified and classified as follows:

  • Critical priority group: Cryptococcus neoformans, Candida auris, Aspergillus fumigatus and Candida albicans.
  • High priority group: Nakaseomyces glabrata (Candida glabrata), Histoplasma spp., Eumycetoma causative agents, Mucorales, Fusarium spp., Candida tropicalis and Candida parapsilosis.
  • Medium priority group: Scedosporium spp., Lomentospora prolificans, Coccidioides spp., Pichia kudriavzeveii (Candida krusei), Cryptococcus gattii, Talaromyces marneffei, Pneumocystis jirovecii and Paracoccidioides spp.

Fungal diseases undercounted

According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 1.6 million people die from fungal diseases worldwide, including 7,000 Americans in 2021, but most cases are presumably undiagnosed and undercounted.

Fungal infections are increasingly caused by variables such as abuse of antibiotics and antimicrobials—particularly during the pandemic—and climate change, which is causing “increased incidence and geographic range” as fungi adapt to higher temperatures.

Drug-resistant bacteria, which contributed to at least 1.27 million deaths worldwide in 2019—more than HIV or malaria—get more attention than drug-resistant fungi, which are still considered a “silent pandemic” and require financing and study.

“This all ties back to the need for the PASTEUR Act, which would help support innovation to address the most critical fungal pathogens, along with those to treat the greatest bacterial threats,” BIO’s Director of Infectious Disease Policy Emily Wheeler told Bio.News.

Learn More: Tomorrow (Thursday), Center Forward will hold a virtual congressional briefing on AMR and pandemic preparedness, featuring BIO’s Emily Wheeler—register here.

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