An increase in cases of a new clinical form of the Latin American fungal disease, paracoccidioidomycosis, has triggered a “state of alert” in northeastern Argentina, according to a Primera Edicion report (computer translated).

Paracoccidioides brasiliensis/CDC
Paracoccidioides brasiliensis/CDC

According to the Broad Institute, it is estimated that about 10 million people are infected with paracoccidioidomycosis (PCM) in South America. The annual incidence rate in Brazil is 10-30 infections per million inhabitants, and the mean mortality rate is 1.4 per million per year.

The Argentinian news source reports what is most worrying is that, among this segment of the population, the disease progresses quickly, is progressive, and can be fatal if diagnosed late or inaccurately. For the last few years, a team of researchers from the Department of Mycology of the Regional Institute of Medicine of the UNNE, headed by Dr Gustavo Giusiano, has been closely monitoring the evolution of the disease in the region and Dr Giusano has activated the alarm.

“In the past 2 years the frequency of cases of PCM in general has increased 5-fold compared with previous years, but with epidemiological characteristics different from those historically known; previously the chronic form affected only adults in rural areas,” said Dr Giusiano.

Until 2006 it was thought that the only causative agent of PCM was the fungus Paracoccidioides brasiliensis, but the discovery that Paracoccidioides includes several species and genotypes may be one of the explanations for the emergence of these variants of clinical forms.

The says paracoccidioidomycosis  is a chronic granulomatous disease of mucous membranes, skin, and pulmonary system. This disease occurs from the middle of Mexico (North America) to Central and South America. Most cases are reported from Brazil. The ecological niche of this organism is probably the soil.

The disease has a long latency period. 10-20 years may pass between infection and manifestation of the infection in the non-endemic areas of the world.

Paracoccidioidomycosis is also known as Brazilian blastomycosis, South American blastomycosis, Lutz-Splendore-de Almeida disease and paracoccidioidal granuloma.