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ICMR houses Mycology Research Centre at St. John’s Medical College to manage threat of fungal infections

Nandita Vijayasimha, Bengaluru
Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has housed its Advanced Mycology Diagnostic and Research Centre in St. John’s Medical College, Research Centre and Hospital, Bengaluru. The centre, set up at a cost of Rs. 5 crore, is among the eight referral or nodal centres across the country and the only facility for the southern States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Puducherry.

With this new facility in Bengaluru, the St. John’s Medical College, Research Centre and Hospital said that will be able to help manage a major threat in the form of fungal infections, which are known to be silent killers causing misery to millions and increasing fatalities, compared to TB and malaria.

The Karnataka government too stated that it was committed to collaborative research in mycology in the 70 medical colleges across the state. The addition of a facility dedicated to managing fungal infections at St. John’s Medical College, Research Centre, and Hospital in Bengaluru is a significant step forward in combating these often overlooked yet serious health threats. However, if not properly addressed it could lead to fatalities. This initiative underscores the growing recognition of the importance of addressing fungal infections within the broader context of public health.

The Centre will focus on training, diagnostics, research and community advocacy in the field of mycology fungal infections. Already, India faces challenge of fungal infections. Disease models have determined annual incidence and prevalence estimates for multiple life- and sight-threatening infections with significant morbidity.

ICMR has taken on this task to empower institutions in the management of fungal infections, which is absolutely essential given the current challenges of healthcare delivery. Advanced Mycology Diagnostic and Research Centre in this endeavour of equitable healthcare will collaborate with public and private healthcare facilities.

A report from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, AIIMS Kalyani, West Bengal and PGIMER, Chandigarh, along with The University of Manchester, UK, estimate that 57,250,826 which is over 5.7 crore constituting a 4.4 per cent of India's population are likely to be affected.

Dr Jayanthi Savio, professor and Head, Department of Microbiology, and Principal Investigator, Advanced Mycology Diagnostic and Research Centre, said that the facility would help in patient management using state-of-the-art advanced molecular techniques in diagnosis.

The students and faculty would be trained in mycology, thus building a repository of experts in the field across the country. This would enable creating awareness regarding fungal infections which would facilitate early reporting and better treatment of patients in need, said Dr Savio.

The incidence of fungal infection of the skin has increased. The need of the hour is to prevent self- medication which is both topical and oral dosage forms. In fact, drug resistance against routinely used antifungals may cause treatment failure even in easily manageable cases of infection leading to prolonged and slow recovery. With heat and sweat on the rise, understanding fungal biology could be crucial in this age of climate change. During the Covid outbreak phase, black fungus infection or mucormycosis was a serious threat, said dermatologists.


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