• 1.

    Anstead GM, Patterson TF, 2009. Endemic mycoses. Anaissie EJ, McGinnis MR, Pfaller MA, eds. Clinical Mycology. Second edition. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 355373.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Kauffman CA, 2003. Histoplasmosis. Dismukes WE, Pappas PG, Sobel JD, eds. Clinical Mycology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 285298.

  • 3.

    Wang Y, Pan B, Wu J, Bi X, Liao W, Pan W, Gu J, 2014. Detection and phylogenetic characterization of a case of Histoplasma capsulatum infection in mainland China. Am J Trop Med Hyg 90: 11801183.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Zhao B, Xia X, Yin J, Zhang X, Wu E, Shi Y, Tong M, Sun S, Gui X, Zhao Z, Feng X, 2001. Epidemiological investigation of Histoplasma capsulatum infection in China. Chin Med J (Engl) 114: 743746.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Cao C, Bulmer G, Li J, Liang L, Lin Y, Xu Y, Luo Q, 2010. Indigenous case of disseminated histoplasmosis from the Penicillium marneffei endemic area of China. Mycopathologia 170: 4750.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Pan B, Chen M, Pan W, Liao W, 2013. Histoplasmosis: a new endemic fungal infection in China? Review and analysis of cases. Mycoses 56: 212221.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Wen FQ, Sun YD, Watanabe K, Yoshida M, Wu JN, Baum GL, 1996. Prevalence of histoplasmin sensitivity in healthy adults and tuberculosis patients in southwest China. J Med Vet Mycol 34: 171174.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Goswami RP, Pramanik N, Banerjee D, Raza MM, Guha SK, Maiti PK, 1999. Histoplasmosis in eastern India: the tip of the iceberg? Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 93: 540542.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Subramanian S, Abraham OC, Rupali P, Zachariah A, Matthews MS, Mathai D, 2005. Disseminated histoplasmosis. J Assoc Physicians India 53: 185189.

  • 10.

    Gopalakrishnan R, Senthur Nambi P, Ramasubramanian V, Abdul Ghafur K, Parameswaran A, 2012. Histoplasmosis in India: truly uncommon or uncommonly recognized? J Assoc Physicians India 60: 2528.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Sanyal M, Thammayya A, 1975. Histoplasma capsulatum in the soil of Gangetic Plain in India. Indian J Med Res 63: 10201028.

  • 12.

    Randhawa HS, Khan ZU, 1994. Histoplasmosis in India: current status. Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci 36: 193213.

  • 13.

    Antinori S, Magni C, Nebuloni M, Parravicini C, Corbellino M, Sollima S, Galimberti L, Ridolfo AL, Wheat LJ, 2006. Histoplasmosis among human immunodeficiency virus-infected people in Europe. Report of 4 cases and review of the literature. Medicine 85: 2236.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Norkaew T, Ohno H, Sriburee P, Tanabe K, Tharavichitkul P, Takarn P, Puengchan T, Bumrungsri S, Miyazaki Y, 2013. Detection of environmental sources of Histoplasma capsulatum in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by nested PCR. Mycopathologia 176: 395402.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Randhawa HS, 1970. Occurrence of histoplasmosis in Asia. Mycopathol Mycol Appl 41: 7589.

  • 16.

    Wang TL, Cheah JS, Holmberg K, 1996. Case report and review of disseminated histoplasmosis in south-east Asia: clinical and epidemiological implications. Trop Med Int Health 1: 3542.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Ashbee HR, Evans EGV, Viviani MA, Dupont B, Chryssanthou E, Surmont I, Tomsikova A, Vachkov P, Enero B, Zala J, Tintelnot K; ECMM Working Group, 2008. Histoplasmosis in Europe: report on an epidemiological survey from the European Confederation on Medical Mycology Working Group. Med Mycol 46: 5765.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    McLeod DS, Mortimer RH, Perry-Keene DA, Allworth A, Woods ML, Perry-Keene J, McBride WJ, Coulter C, Robson JM, 2011. Histoplasmosis in Australia. Report of 16 cases and literature review. Medicine 90: 6168.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Sotgiu G, Mazzoni A, Mantovani A, Ajello L, Palmer J, 1965. Histoplasma capsulatum: occurrence in soil from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Science 147: 624.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Mantovani A, Mazzoni A, Ajello L, 1968. Histoplasmosis in Italy. I. Isolation of Histoplasma capsulatum from dogs in the province of Bologna. Sabouradia 6: 163164.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Confalonieri M, Gandola L, Aiolfi S, Parigi P, Mazzoni A, 1994. Histoplasmin sensitivity among a student population in Crema, Po valley Italy. New Microbiol 17: 151153.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Loulergue P, Bastides F, Baudouin V, Chandenier J, Mariani-Kurkdjian P, Dupont B, Viard J-P, Dromer F, Lortholary O, 2007. Literature review and case histories of Histoplasma capsulatum var. duboisii infections in HIV-infected patients. Emerg Infect Dis 13: 16471652.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
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Histoplasma capsulatum: More Widespread than Previously Thought

Spinello AntinoriDepartment of Clinical and Biomedical Sciences “Luigi Sacco,” III Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Milano, Milano, Italy

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Histoplasmosis is an endemic mycosis caused by a dimorphic fungus with two distinct varieties pathogenic for humans: Histoplasma capsulatum var. capsulatum and H. capsulatum var. duboisii. The latter is known to be restricted to sub-Saharan Africa, whereas the former is distributed worldwide. However, general textbooks of medical mycology when considering the geographic distribution of H. capsulatum var. capsulatum either refer only to “eastern United States (Ohio, Mississippi, and St. Lawrence River valleys) and most of Latin America,”1 or indicate that “isolated cases have been reported also from Southeast Asia and Africa.”2 In this issue of the Journal, Wang and others3 describe an autochthonous case of disseminated progressive histoplasmosis (DPH) observed in a young human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-negative Chinese man. This report adds to the growing evidence from epidemiological surveys using histoplasmin skin tests,4 case reports,5 and a recent review of the literature6 (mostly of works written in Chinese) indicating that some areas of China should be included among those with medium-high endemicity for H. capsulatum. However, because China is one of the largest countries in the world, epidemiological information for clinicians should take into account which specific areas are involved. In this regard the histoplasmin skin test survey conducted by Zhao and others,4 showed an overall reactivity of 9.0% among 735 healthy volunteers and patients with lung diseases, with the highest prevalence observed in Hunan (8.9%) and Jiangsu (15.1%) provinces. In good agreement, in a review of 300 cases of histoplasmosis diagnosed in China (75% considered autochthonous),6 the geographical distribution of patients was 27.7% from Yunnan, 9.3% from Jiangsu and Hunan, 8.7% from Hubei and 7.3% from Sichuan. Another histoplasmin skin test survey conducted on 271 healthy students from Sichuan province showed a prevalence ranging from 6% to 35%, with the highest recorded in the southern part of the province.7

Overall, nearly 82% of all reviewed cases of histoplasmosis from China were reported from nine provinces through which the Yangtze River flows and where climate conditions are probably favorable for H. capsulatum growth6; it is worth noting that 86% of these cases were classified as disseminated, and in 52% of affected patients no underlying diseases were disclosed.

India is another Asian country where H. capsulatum is known to be endemic, although the true prevalence of this mycosis is still underappreciated. The first case was reported as early as 1954, and since then several cases (mostly DPH, even in the absence of underlying immunosuppression) have been published.810

In India the majority of histoplasmosis cases were reported from the eastern and north-eastern part of the country, especially from Calcutta (West Bengal) and Assam. Interestingly, as observed for the highly endemic areas in North America, both states are crossed by long rivers: the Ganges and the Brahamaputra, respectively.810 Moreover, the fungus was isolated from the soil of the Gangetic plains.11 A histoplasmin skin-test positivity rate of 12.3% was reported in northern India between the 1950s and 1970s.12

It has been hypothesized that in India a large number of cases might be unrecognized for a long period caused by low awareness of the disease and misdiagnose as tuberculosis or leishmaniasis.8,10 Oral cavity ulcers and bilateral adrenal enlargement seem to be particularly frequent among Indian patients, whereas skin lesions were observed in only 8% of cases.8,10 Also in the review of Chinese patients skin involvement was reported in a small fraction of cases (6.6%) and the authors speculated about the low number of HIV-positive patients in their file records.6 High rates of skin involvement have been observed among HIV-positive patients from South America and Africa.13

Thailand is another country of South-east Asia where localized foci of H. capsulatum exist, and the fungus has been shown by using nested polymerase chain reaction of soil contamined with bat guano and chicken droppings from Chiang Mai, a geographic area where Penicillium marneffei is also endemic.14 In contrast to the Chinese and Indian experiences, DPH in Thailand has been observed almost exclusively among HIV-infected patients, with 1,253 cases reported from 1984 to 2010 to the Ministry of Public Health.14

Based on sporadic case reports of autochthonous histoplasmosis, isolation of the fungus from soil in bat-infested caves and histoplasmin skin test surveys, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines should also be considered areas with pockets of endemicity for histoplasmosis.15,16 Interestingly, in a recent survey conducted in Europe, cases of disseminated histoplasmosis were diagnosed among elderly United Kingdom residents who had served in World War II in India and Myanmar and who did not leave their country of origin for more than 50 years after returning home.17

In Australia, cases of indigenous histoplasmosis were reported as early as 1948, and the organism has been cultured from fowl yards and caves, although the exact ecology is poorly understood18; the majority of cases were reported from the Queensland and northern New South Wales regions, which are characterized by tropical and subtropical climate. These regions are also crossed by long rivers (the Dumaresq and Macintyre rivers).

Outside Asia autochthonous cases of histoplasmosis have been reported sporadically from Italy,13,17 where studies conducted in the 1960s confirmed the presence of H. capsulatum in soil19 and animals,20 with the existence (confirmed with histoplasmin skin tests) of a pocket of endemicity along the Po River valley.21

Histoplasma capsulatum var. duboisii, characterized by a larger size (8–15 μm) and thicker walls than H. capsulatum var. capsulatum, is found in Madagascar and in central and western regions of sub-Saharan Africa (Malì, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana). It is classically associated with skin, subcutaneous, and bone lesions, but disseminated disease has been described among HIV-positive patients22; because both pathogens coexist in Africa,13,17 it has been suggested that until the correct variety of the fungus has been identified African patients should not be described as affected by “African histoplasmosis.”17

In conclusion, our knowledge of the true worldwide distribution of H. capsulatum is still incomplete, and works such as that of Wang and coworkers are worthwhile. Improved access to diagnostic tests and increased awareness of the disease outside the well-known endemic areas will be helpful in redrawing the map of the geographic extent of this infection. Moreover, in an era of increasingly mobile people, physicians need to consider histoplasmosis in travelers and immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and South-east Asia in addition to regions traditionally considered endemic.

  • 1.

    Anstead GM, Patterson TF, 2009. Endemic mycoses. Anaissie EJ, McGinnis MR, Pfaller MA, eds. Clinical Mycology. Second edition. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 355373.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Kauffman CA, 2003. Histoplasmosis. Dismukes WE, Pappas PG, Sobel JD, eds. Clinical Mycology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 285298.

  • 3.

    Wang Y, Pan B, Wu J, Bi X, Liao W, Pan W, Gu J, 2014. Detection and phylogenetic characterization of a case of Histoplasma capsulatum infection in mainland China. Am J Trop Med Hyg 90: 11801183.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Zhao B, Xia X, Yin J, Zhang X, Wu E, Shi Y, Tong M, Sun S, Gui X, Zhao Z, Feng X, 2001. Epidemiological investigation of Histoplasma capsulatum infection in China. Chin Med J (Engl) 114: 743746.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Cao C, Bulmer G, Li J, Liang L, Lin Y, Xu Y, Luo Q, 2010. Indigenous case of disseminated histoplasmosis from the Penicillium marneffei endemic area of China. Mycopathologia 170: 4750.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Pan B, Chen M, Pan W, Liao W, 2013. Histoplasmosis: a new endemic fungal infection in China? Review and analysis of cases. Mycoses 56: 212221.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Wen FQ, Sun YD, Watanabe K, Yoshida M, Wu JN, Baum GL, 1996. Prevalence of histoplasmin sensitivity in healthy adults and tuberculosis patients in southwest China. J Med Vet Mycol 34: 171174.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Goswami RP, Pramanik N, Banerjee D, Raza MM, Guha SK, Maiti PK, 1999. Histoplasmosis in eastern India: the tip of the iceberg? Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg 93: 540542.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Subramanian S, Abraham OC, Rupali P, Zachariah A, Matthews MS, Mathai D, 2005. Disseminated histoplasmosis. J Assoc Physicians India 53: 185189.

  • 10.

    Gopalakrishnan R, Senthur Nambi P, Ramasubramanian V, Abdul Ghafur K, Parameswaran A, 2012. Histoplasmosis in India: truly uncommon or uncommonly recognized? J Assoc Physicians India 60: 2528.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Sanyal M, Thammayya A, 1975. Histoplasma capsulatum in the soil of Gangetic Plain in India. Indian J Med Res 63: 10201028.

  • 12.

    Randhawa HS, Khan ZU, 1994. Histoplasmosis in India: current status. Indian J Chest Dis Allied Sci 36: 193213.

  • 13.

    Antinori S, Magni C, Nebuloni M, Parravicini C, Corbellino M, Sollima S, Galimberti L, Ridolfo AL, Wheat LJ, 2006. Histoplasmosis among human immunodeficiency virus-infected people in Europe. Report of 4 cases and review of the literature. Medicine 85: 2236.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Norkaew T, Ohno H, Sriburee P, Tanabe K, Tharavichitkul P, Takarn P, Puengchan T, Bumrungsri S, Miyazaki Y, 2013. Detection of environmental sources of Histoplasma capsulatum in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by nested PCR. Mycopathologia 176: 395402.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Randhawa HS, 1970. Occurrence of histoplasmosis in Asia. Mycopathol Mycol Appl 41: 7589.

  • 16.

    Wang TL, Cheah JS, Holmberg K, 1996. Case report and review of disseminated histoplasmosis in south-east Asia: clinical and epidemiological implications. Trop Med Int Health 1: 3542.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Ashbee HR, Evans EGV, Viviani MA, Dupont B, Chryssanthou E, Surmont I, Tomsikova A, Vachkov P, Enero B, Zala J, Tintelnot K; ECMM Working Group, 2008. Histoplasmosis in Europe: report on an epidemiological survey from the European Confederation on Medical Mycology Working Group. Med Mycol 46: 5765.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    McLeod DS, Mortimer RH, Perry-Keene DA, Allworth A, Woods ML, Perry-Keene J, McBride WJ, Coulter C, Robson JM, 2011. Histoplasmosis in Australia. Report of 16 cases and literature review. Medicine 90: 6168.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Sotgiu G, Mazzoni A, Mantovani A, Ajello L, Palmer J, 1965. Histoplasma capsulatum: occurrence in soil from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Science 147: 624.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Mantovani A, Mazzoni A, Ajello L, 1968. Histoplasmosis in Italy. I. Isolation of Histoplasma capsulatum from dogs in the province of Bologna. Sabouradia 6: 163164.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Confalonieri M, Gandola L, Aiolfi S, Parigi P, Mazzoni A, 1994. Histoplasmin sensitivity among a student population in Crema, Po valley Italy. New Microbiol 17: 151153.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Loulergue P, Bastides F, Baudouin V, Chandenier J, Mariani-Kurkdjian P, Dupont B, Viard J-P, Dromer F, Lortholary O, 2007. Literature review and case histories of Histoplasma capsulatum var. duboisii infections in HIV-infected patients. Emerg Infect Dis 13: 16471652.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Spinello Antinori, Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, “Luigi Sacco,” University of Milano, Italy. E-mail: spinello.antinori@unimi.it

Author's address: Spinello Antinori, Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, “Luigi Sacco,” University of Milano, Italy, E-mail: spinello.antinori@unimi.it.

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