What Are Fungal Infections?

Fungal infections can affect various parts of the body after exposure to any one of hundreds of species of fungi in the environment. Fungi, like bacteria, occur naturally in our homes, on our skin, and on plants and in soil. They can be broadly described as either yeasts or molds.

Most fungi are not harmful, but some can cause serious illnesses, particularly if someone has a weakened immune system. Those people may include people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, organ or stem cell transplants and those taking medications that weaken the immune system.

Some common fungal infections include:

  • Aspergillosis: This mold can infect the lungs and other organs of people who have lung disease.
  • Blastomycosis: This common fungus causes flu-like symptoms and chest pain in about half of the people who breathe in the spores.
  • Candidiasis: Yeast infections can affect the throat, vagina and bloodstream.
  • C. neoformans:This can cause meningitis (infection of the brain or spinal cord) in people with HIV/AIDS.
  • Pneumocystis: This fungus causes pneumonia in people with weakened immune systems.
  • Ringworm:Despite the name, a fungus creates this common ring-shaped rash.