Blastomycosis

Definition

Blastomycosis is an infection caused by breathing in the Blastomyces dermatitidis fungus. The fungus is found in decaying wood and soil.

Causes

You can get blastomycosis by contact with moist soil, most commonly where there is rotting wood and leaves. The fungus enters the body through the lungs, where the infection starts. The fungus can then spread to other parts of the body. The disease may affect the skin, bones and joints, and other areas.

Blastomycosis is rare. It is found in the central and southeastern United States, and in Canada, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Africa.

The key risk factor for the disease is contact with infected soil. It most often affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who have had an organ transplant. It can also infect healthy people. Men are more likely to be affected than women.

Symptoms

Lung infection may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms may be seen if the infection spreads. Symptoms may include:

Most people develop skin symptoms when the infection spreads. You may get papules, pustules, or nodules on exposed body areas.

The pustules:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical examination. You'll be asked about your medical history and symptoms.

If the provider suspects you have a fungal infection, diagnosis can be confirmed by these tests:

Treatment

You may not need to take medicine for a mild blastomycosis infection that stays in the lungs. The provider may recommend the following antifungal medicines when the disease is severe or spreads outside of the lungs.

Amphotericin B may be used for severe infections.

Follow up regularly with your provider to make sure the infection does not return.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People with minor skin sores (lesions) and mild lung infections usually recover completely. The infection can lead to death if not treated.

Possible Complications

Complications of blastomycosis may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of blastomycosis.

Prevention

Avoiding travel to areas where the infection is known to occur may help prevent exposure to the fungus, but this may not always be possible.


Review Date: 9/22/2018
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.