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Definition of Histoplasmosis

Microscopy of Histoplasma capsulatum

Photomicrograph showing the environmental form of Histoplasma.

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by the fungus Histoplasma.  The fungus lives in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird or bat droppings. In the United States, Histoplasma mainly lives in soil in the central and eastern states, especially areas around the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys.1 The fungus also lives in parts of Central and South America,2 Africa,3 Asia,4 and Australia.5

People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, often after participating in activities that disturb the soil. Although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick, those who do may have a fever, cough, and fatigue. Many people who get sick will get better on their own without medication. In some people, such as those who have weakened immune systems, the infection can become severe, especially if it spreads from the lungs to other organs.

References

  1. Manos NE, Ferebee SH, Kerschbaum WF. Geographic variation in the prevalence of histoplasmin sensitivity. Dis Chest. 1956 Jun;29(6):649-68.
  2. Colombo AL, Tobon A, Restrepo A, Queiroz-Telles F, Nucci M. Epidemiology of endemic systemic fungal infections in Latin America. Med Mycol. 2011 Nov;49(8):785-98.
  3. Loulergue P, Bastides F, Baudouin V, Chandenier J, Mariani-Kurkdjian P, Dupont B, et al. Literature review and case histories of Histoplasma capsulatum var. duboisii infections in HIV-infected patients. Emerg Infect Dis. 2007 Nov;13(11):1647-52.
  4. Chakrabarti A, Slavin MA. Endemic fungal infections in the Asia-Pacific region. Med Mycol. 2011 May;49(4):337-44.
  5. McLeod DS, Mortimer RH, Perry-Keene DA, Allworth A, Woods ML, Perry-Keene J, et al. Histoplasmosis in Australia: report of 16 cases and literature review. Medicine. 2011 Jan;90(1):61-8.
 
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