Fungal Diseases and COVID-19

At a glance

  • Symptoms of certain fungal diseases, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath, can be similar to those of COVID-19.
  • Consider testing patients with pneumonia who test negative for COVID-19 for fungal lung infections.
  • COVID-19 can increase the risk for severe fungal infections, like COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis, mucormycosis, and invasive candidiasis.
graphic combining several small images related to lung infections, diagnostics, the COVID-virus, infection control, and global spread.


COVID-19-associated fungal infections can lead to severe illness and death. Symptoms of certain fungal diseases can be similar to those of COVID-19, including:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
Stock image of a man coughing while covering his mouth with his fist.
Coughing is a common symptom of fungal diseases similar to COVID.

Some patients can have COVID-19 and a fungal infection at the same time. Laboratory testing is necessary to determine if a person has a fungal infection, COVID-19, or both.

COVID-19 likely increases the risk for fungal infections because of its effect on the immune system. Treatments for COVID-19 (like steroids and other drugs) can also weaken the body's defenses against fungi. The most commonly reported fungal infections in patients with COVID-19 include:

  • Aspergillosis
  • Invasive candidiasis
  • Mucormycosis (or "black fungus")

Fungal infections resistant to antifungal treatment have also been described in patients with severe COVID-19.

Identifying a potential fungal co-infection with COVID-19 can reduce diagnosis and treatment delays. This will help prevent severe illness and death from these infections.

What the data shows

COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis

In the past, scientists thought aspergillosis only occurred in people with very weak immune systems. However, aspergillosis has been increasingly reported in patients with healthy immune systems who get severe respiratory infections. Several recent reports describe COVID-19-associated pulmonary aspergillosis (CAPA).

Available information indicates that CAPA:

  • Usually occurs in patients with severe COVID-19 (e.g., patients on ventilators).
  • Can be difficult to diagnose because patients display non-specific symptoms.
  • Can be complex to test.
  • Can cause severe illness and death.

Clinical considerations

Clinicians should consider aspergillosis in patients with severe COVID-19 who have worsening respiratory function or sepsis. This should occur even if they do not have classical risk factors for aspergillosis.

Testing for CAPA usually involves obtaining specimens from patients' lower respiratory tract, which are tested for Aspergillus galactomannan antigen and fungal culture. The treatment of CAPA includes antifungals like:

  • Voriconazole
  • Posaconazole
  • Isavuconazole

Therapeutic drug monitoring should be considered when using these antifungals in CAPA treatment.

COVID-19-associated mucormycosis

Often called "black fungus," COVID-19-associated mucormycosis is a major public health problem in India. COVID-19-associated mucormycosis cases have also been seen outside of India, including in the United States, although much less commonly. Uncontrolled diabetes and overuse of steroids for COVID-19 treatment are important risk factors.

Clinical considerations

Biomarkers for diagnosing invasive aspergillosis, such as beta-d-glucan and galactomannan, are typically negative in patients with mucormycosis. The treatment for mucormycosis frequently involves aggressive surgical intervention and treatment with antifungals, including:

  • Amphotericin B
  • Posaconazole
  • Isavuconazole

Voriconazole is not recommended for treating mucormycosis. Providers should consider therapeutic drug monitoring during COVID-19-associated mucormycosis treatment.


The risk of COVID-19-associated mucormycosis can decrease by:

  • Encouraging vaccination against COVID-19.
  • Prescribing steroids for COVID-19 treatment based on guidelines.
  • Controlling the blood sugar of patients with diabetes who have COVID-19.

Early diagnosis and treatment are key to improving outcomes for patients with COVID-19-associated mucormycosis. Clinicians should consider the possibility of mucormycosis in patients with COVID-19 even when patients lack classic risk factors for this disease.

Increased spread of Candida auris during COVID-19 pandemic

Candida auris (C. auris) is an emerging fungus that can cause outbreaks of severe infections in healthcare facilities. In the United States, it has most commonly spread in long-term care facilities with patients under severe medical conditions.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks of C. auris have been reported in COVID-19 units of acute care hospitals. These outbreaks may be related to changes in routine infection control practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Limited availability of gloves and gowns.
  • Reuse or extended use of personal protective equipment.
  • Changes in cleaning and disinfection practices.

Screening for C. auris colonization, an important part of containment efforts, has been more limited as healthcare facilities and health departments have been responding to COVID-19.

Invasive candidiasis in patients with COVID-19

Patients hospitalized for COVID-19 are at risk for healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), including candidemia, or bloodstream infections caused by Candida. Patients with COVID-19 who developed candidemia were less likely to have certain underlying conditions. Patients who underwent procedures commonly associated with candidemia were more likely to have acute risk factors linked to COVID-19 care, including medicines that suppress the immune system.

Fungal pneumonias can resemble COVID-19

Other fungal diseases, such as Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis), histoplasmosis, and blastomycosis, can cause fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are similar to COVID-19 and bacterial pneumonias.

These fungi live in soil. People become infected by breathing in fungi present in the air. Clinicians should consider fungal pneumonias as a possible cause of respiratory illness, particularly if COVID-19 testing is negative. It is important to note that these fungal diseases can occur at the same time as COVID-19.