Severe Histoplasmosis

Severe Histoplasmosis

Histoplasmosis is a rare, serious fungal infection caused by a microorganism known as Histoplasma capsulatum. It typically affects the lungs, but can also cause disease in other organs. In rare cases, Histoplasma can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening form of histoplasmosis known as disseminated, or systemic histoplasmosis.

Systemic histoplasmosis can affect people who have weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV infection, cancer, or other illnesses that affect the immune system. Other risk factors include long-term steroid use, organ transplant or bone marrow transplant recipients, and people who have received chemotherapy.

In medically fragile individuals, the infection can cause multiple organ systems to fail, including the lungs, liver, central nervous system, and heart. It can also cause serious skin, eye, or joint infections.


Some people may not experience any symptoms at all. For others, the symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for a positive outcome. Diagnostic tests, such as a chest X-ray or CT scan, are used to identify and confirm the infection. Blood tests may also be used to look for antibodies to Histoplasma capsulatum.

If a systemic form of histoplasmosis is suspected, antifungal medications may be used to treat the infection. Treatment should begin as soon as possible to increase the chances of a successful outcome. However, it can take several months for the infection to be cleared and for symptoms to improve.

In more severe cases, hospitalization may be required for intravenous (IV) antifungal medications and monitoring of vital signs. People with weakened immune systems may need a longer course of treatment.


If left untreated, systemic histoplasmosis can cause life-threatening complications. These include dangerously low oxygen levels, organ failure, and sepsis. Sepsis can be fatal, so it's important to seek prompt medical attention if any symptoms of histoplasmosis are present.