|LONDON, Jan. 28, 2005. - Survivors of the Asian tsunami, in which nearly 300,000
people were killed or are still missing, could be at risk of a deadly
fungal infection, Australian researchers said on Friday.
Doctors at Sydney's St George Hospital who treated an infection
called mucormycosis in an Australian man who was injured in the
disaster, fear it could be the first case of many.
[Mold Inspector note: This fungal disease is caused by the Mucor mold
species, which is a very common mold species that readily grows in
water-damaged buildings worldwide].
"Other cases of mucormycosis might develop in survivors, but this
disease can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to treat,
particularly in those who remain in affected regions," said Pamela
Konecny in a report published online by The Lancet medical journal.
The 56-year-old man, who was injured by debris, was transferred from
Sri Lanka to the Australian hospital where he had surgery to remove
infected tissue and intravenous therapy.
Mucormycosis is caused by fungi found in the soil and in decaying
vegetation. It affects the sinuses, brain, lungs, skin and kidneys.
People with immune disorders are more susceptible to the infection.
Without surgery the chances of survival are slim. Death rates range
from 25-80 percent depending on which part of the body is infected.
"Wound infections, both bacterial and fungal, will undoubtedly add to
the illness and mortality already recorded in tsunami-affected areas,"
Up to 100,000 people in Indonesia alone and thousands more in Sri
Lanka, Thailand and other countries were injured when the tsunami struck
on December 26, according to collated figures from government and health
Konecny said doctors treating people injured during the tsunami
should be aware that mucormycosis can occur.
"Our patient probably acquired mucormycosis from contamination of his
wounds at the time of trauma or during first aid measures," she said.