are diseases caused by several different infective
agents. Pythiosis and lagenidiosis are two specific types of
infection that are grouped under this heading. The ailments are
caused not by true fungi, but by a group of organisms known as
oomycetes. Oomycetes are single celled or filamentous organisms
with both sexual and asexual reproductive patterns. Pythium and Lagenidium are water molds often
found in tropical climates around the world where they are able to
thrive in warm climates with many available aquatic habitats.
During the hot, damp summers a danger invisible to the human eye lurks
in these habitats throughout the Gulf Coast Region. This danger
is the oomycetes, which are capable of infecting mammals, even
humans. Pythium insidiosum
begins its attack on the body after being ingested when contaminated
water is ingested or infecting through open wounds. Gastrointestional
symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, and a mass in the
stomach. These diseases are found not only in the Gulf Coast
Region of the United States, but in places as far flung as southeast
Asia and New Zealand. Unlike the gastrointestinal infections
caused by Pythium, Lagenidium sp. usually infects
mammals in subcutaneous tissues, causing sores to develop on the
extremities of the body. Both diseases are treated through
surgery, although recurrence of the infection is common.
Anti-fungal medications do little to aid in the treatment of the
disease, an early indication that the infectious agents were not true
fungi. Currently only one drug, Caspofungin, is available that
targets water molds infections specifically. Caspofungin works by
inhibiting cell wall synthesis in the oomycete. This treatment
option, however, like all other phycomycosis treatment plans, is
extemely expensive, and the prognosis for animals infected with a
phycomycosis is almost always very poor. --B. Cranfield
Dog infected with Lagenidium resulting in subcutaneous lesions.
Picture courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.
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