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Histoplasmosis Facts

  • Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a dimorphic fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum.
  • Risk factors for histoplasmosis include immunocompromised people and association with airborne particles containing the fungi (caves containing bats, bird feces, construction sites).
  • Symptoms of histoplasmosis range from none to flu-like symptoms (fever, dry cough, chest discomfort); severe infections may cause vision problems, mouth ulcers, seizures, encephalopathy, and death.
  • Seek medical care if symptoms of the flu or pneumonia persist, especially in people with immunocompromised systems.
  • Definitive diagnosis is made by culturing and identifying Histoplasma capsulatum from biopsy, blood, or sputum samples.
  • The majority of patients infected by Histoplasma capsulatum require no treatment; the small number of patients who develop more severe infection may require long-term antifungal treatments (months to a year) while a few may need lifelong antifungal treatment.
  • Follow-up is important because of the potential need for long-term antifungal treatments to monitor drug levels and to determine effective treatment or reoccurrence of infection.
  • The large majority of patients who develop histoplasmosis have no complication; ocular (eye) problems, mouth ulcers, encephalopathy, seizures, and, rarely, death may occur in those few patients that develop severe disease.
  • The large majority of people who develop histoplasmosis have good outcomes; patients who are immunocompromised have outcomes that range from good to poor, depending on their response to treatment and disease severity.
  • No vaccine is currently available to prevent histoplasmosis; avoidance of bat and bird habitats and avoiding construction sites that may aerosolize the fungi is recommended.
Picture of spores of Histoplasma capsulatum fungi
Picture of spores of Histoplasma capsulatum fungi; SOURCE: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/1/2015

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Treatment & Outcomes of Histoplasmosis

The mild pulmonary (lung) form of histoplasmosis will generally resolve within about a month without treatment.

Prescription antifungal medications are needed to treat severe cases of acute histoplasmosis, and all cases of chronic or disseminated disease. Itraconazole is one commonly used antifungal medication. Treatment may continue for 3 to 12 months, depending on the severity of the disease and the immune status of the person. Past infection can provide partial protection against severe disease if a person becomes re-infected later in life.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Medical Dictionary