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Monday, April 4, 2011

The State of Fungus in the US - A History, Part 1

The United States has taken a back seat to Europe in the study of medical mycology (study of fungi). It wasn't until the late 1940's that the United States focused on medical mycology as a separate science, not because pathogenic fungi was not studied by clinicians and researchers, but because mycology had been previously classified under pathology, microbiology, dermatology and bacteriology.

In 2003, Ana Victoria Espinel-Ingroff published Medical mycology in the United States: A historical analysis (1894-1996), a publication that became the milestone in the history of medical mycology in the United States. According to Espinel-Ingroff, "Lewis David von Schweinitz, of German origin, is regarded as the first American mycologist for his description and collection by the 1820s of over 1,300 fungi. However, it was not until the late 1890s that medical scientists began systematically to investigate fungi implicated in human disease."

One of the most well-known studies of fungal infection, first noted in the late 1890's and carrying into the 1940's by physicians and researchers, was "valley fever". It was isolated to the region of the San Joaquin Valley in California, and affected over 450 farm labourers and trainee soldiers. Studies found the fungal pathogen Coccidioides immitus had became airborne and entered the body through inhalation. This research was significant for medical mycology history because it encouraged other researchers to study the effects of fungal pathogens on humans, and brought attention to fungal disease as a major player in human disease.

Tune in tomorrow for more on The State of Fungus in the US - A History....
Here's a trivia question, "Who was the first person to develop an antifungal agent (drug)?"

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