Histoplasmosis

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

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Histoplasmosis Symptoms

What are the symptoms of histoplasmosis?

Most infected persons have no apparent ill effects. The acute respiratory disease is characterized by respiratory symptoms, a general ill feeling, fever, chest pains, and a dry or nonproductive cough. Distinct patterns may be seen on a chest x-ray. Chronic lung disease resembles tuberculosis and can worsen over months or years. The disseminated form is fatal unless treated.

SOURCE: CDC

Picture of skin lesions of disseminated histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis facts

  • Histoplasmosis is disease caused by an infection with a fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum.
  • The infection results from inhaling airborne spores of the fungus.
  • The fungus is common in the U.S. in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys and is often found in soil contaminated by bird or bat droppings.
  • Most people who are exposed to the fungus do not develop the disease.
  • The disease is most severe in people with reduced immune function.
  • Symptoms of histoplasmosis are similar to those of pneumonia.
  • Mild cases of histoplasmosis do not require specific treatment, and more severe or disseminated infections require antifungal medications.
  • There is no vaccine available to prevent histoplasmosis.

What is histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by an infection with a fungus known as Histoplasma capsulatum, which is found in the environment, most frequently in association with bird or bat droppings. The infection can cause a lung disease similar to pneumonia in some people. In some cases, the infection spreads throughout the body, known as disseminated disease. Disseminated histoplasmosis is most common in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, those receiving cancer chemotherapy, or people taking immune-suppressant medications for chronic conditions or transplants. Spread to other organs in immunosuppressed people may involve the liver, spleen, brain, joints, eyes, and bone marrow.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/22/2016
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