Fungal infections account for nearly $7 billion in U.S. health care costs, study finds

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Experts say related hospital stays may surpass $37 billion

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia explored the cost of fungal infections across the United States. Their findings showed that health care costs reached nearly $7 billion in 2018, with hospital stays for these infections surpassing $37 billion. 

“Fungal infections are much more than a yeast infection or athlete’s foot,” said researcher Emily Rayens. “These infections can have a very big impact on people’s lives and have a very high mortality rate.” 

Rising health care costs

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the National Inpatient Sample, which tracks hospitalizations and in-patient care in the U.S. This allowed them to evaluate the number of infections, the associated costs, and the health risks associated with fungal infections. 

Ultimately, there were over 666,000 recorded cases of fungal infections, with some of the most common types affecting the respiratory system and the bloodstream. The study also showed that consumers with immune system disorders may have a higher risk of contracting a fungal infection. 

Overall, the researchers learned that fungal infections accounted for 1.1% of all health care expenses in the U.S. in 2018. Hospital stays accounted for more than $37 billion in health care costs. 

Antibiotic resistance poses a threat

The researchers explained that the biggest concern with treating fungal infections is antibiotic resistance. There are currently only three types of drugs used to eradicate these kinds of infections, and they’re becoming less successful over time. 

“Our data show that the number of fungal infections and the costs of treating those infections are going up,” said Rayens. “The currently available antifungal drugs are not doing a good enough job to reduce mortality due to fungal infections.

"To address this growing clinical problem, our laboratory is focused on developing a preventive antifungal vaccine that would target multiple fungal infections. We believe a vaccine-based preventive strategy for vulnerable patients would be of great benefit in terms of reducing disease burden, mortality, and health care costs.”

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