Fungal infections, also called mycoses, are important causes of morbidity and mortality in humans. Some fungal infections are endemic, and these infections are usually caused by fungi that are present in the environment and whose spores enter humans. Other fungal infections are said to be opportunistic because the causative agents cause mild or no disease in healthy individuals but may infect and cause severe disease in immunodeficient persons. Compromised immunity is the most important predisposing factor for clinically significant fungal infections. Neutrophil deficiency as a result of bone marrow suppression or damage is frequently associated with such infections. A recent increase has been noted in opportunistic fungal infections secondary to an increase in immunodeficiency disease caused mainly by HIV and by therapy for disseminated cancer and transplant rejection. A serious opportunistic fungal infection associated with AIDS is Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, but many others contribute to the morbidity and mortality caused by immune deficiencies.
Different fungi infect humans and may live in extracellular tissues and within phagocytes. Therefore, the immune responses to these microbes are often combinations of the responses to extracellular and intracellular bacteria. However, less is known about antifungal immunity than about immunity against bacteria and viruses. This lack of knowledge is partly due to the paucity of animal models for mycoses and partly due to the fact that these infections typically occur in individuals who are incapable of mounting effective immune responses.
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