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International experts gather in Delhi to convene a global NGO to fight fungal infections that kill 150 people every hour

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Neglected by policy makers and most international health agencies, today sees the launch of Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI) in India, an international organisation set to highlight the plight of 300 million people worldwide and begin to reverse unnecessary death and suffering.

Fungal infections kill at least 1,350,000 patients with or following AIDS, cancer, TB and asthma as well as causing untold misery and blindness to tens of millions more worldwide. Yet its symptoms are mostly hidden and occur as a consequence of other health problems, and the tragedy is that many of the best drugs have been available for almost 50 years.

GAFFI logo
GAFFI logo

On Jan 8th in Delhi*, GAFFI will be officially launched by Dr VM Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research & Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research; and GAFFI Advisor Dr Arunaloke Chakrabarti, Prof of Medical Mycology PGIMR Chandigarh; and Dr David Denning, President of GAFFI and Prof of Infectious Diseases in Global Health, University of Manchester, who will spell out the global issues and potential for great health improvements with local access to diagnostics, antifungal medicines and better medical training. Prof NK Ganguly (formerly Director General, ICMR) and Prof KK Talwar, former President of MCI will both contribute to the case for massive improvement in human capital to combat fungal diseases.

For example, after TB about 20 per cent of patients develop lung fungal infection, which slowly progresses to death over several years, unless arrested with treatment, an estimated burden of 1.2 million people worldwide and 290,000 patients in India. Blindness caused by fungal infection of the eye affects over 1 million adults and children globally with a particularly large number in India and SE Asia. Skin fungal infections affect a billion people worldwide. Asthma is complicated by fungal allergy and is a key factor in severe asthma. In India there are 17-30 million adults with asthma. Asthma complicated by allergic aspergillosis is estimated to affect 860,000 to 1,520,000 in India (the highest rate in the world) and there are a similar number of patients with severe asthma with fungal sensitization. Worldwide there are 350,000 deaths from asthma each year, many in India. Yet fungal asthma is treatable with antifungal drugs with 60-80% improvement rates. Fungal meningitis and pneumonia kills in excess of 1 million patients with AIDS every year, including many children, before treatment for HIV can begin to work. Candida bloodstream infections are hospital acquired and India has one of the world’s highest rates with poor survival. Over 170,000 cases of mucormycosis are estimated to occur in India each year, the highest rate in the world.

Professor Chakrabarti explains: “Fungal diseases are a global plague with a disproportionately high burden in India. Even with the World Health Organisation developing clinical guidelines for doctors for fungal meningitis in AIDS, almost all other critical fungal infections are ignored. The lack of appropriate fungal diagnostic capability in most Indian states is a remediable tragedy resulting in millions of avoidable deaths and illness.”

GAFFI President David Denning declared: “GAFFI’s mission is to improve this dismal situation in India and elsewhere. While India has a high level of expertise in many hospitals, simple, non-culture based tests are not available in most of India, and so antifungal therapy is denied to the majority of the population.”

But experts believe the tide could be turning: The launch of GAFFI comes hard on the heels of a statement from the World Medical Association’s annual meeting in November 2013 urging national governments to ensure that diagnostic tests and fungal therapies are available for their populations.

GAFFI has a stellar international Board and Advisor group from the UK, USA, Brazil, India, Australia, Spain, Switzerland, Norway and Japan to guide the foundation’s work as it begins its many tasks to rescue patients.

* Launch event: Wednesday, January 8th 2014 11:00
Conference Hall, Indian Council of Medical Research

ENDS

For more information please contact Susan Osborne, Director of Communications, the Goodwork Organisation on 07836 229208 or email susano@thisisgoodwork.org

*Please Note: admission is by invitation only. Images of fungal infections, and interviews with speakers and patients, are available on request.

Notes to Editors
GAFFI is a registered International Foundation based in Geneva, focused on four major tasks related to serious fungal infections. These are:

  • Universal access to fungal disease diagnostics for serious fungal disease
  • Universal access to generic antifungal agents
  • Better data on the number and severity of fungal infections
  • Health professional education related to better recognition and care for patients with serious fungal disease.

See www.GAFFI.org.

Arunaloke Chakrabarti MD PhD

Professor In-Charge, Division of Mycology

Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, Punjab, India

Arunaloke Chakrabarti earned his MD in Microbiology from Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh, India in 1985 and is presently working as Professor In-Charge, Division of Mycology at the same Institute.

Arunaloke is currently the Vice-President of International Society for Human and Animal Mycology (ISHAM), President of Society for Indian Human and Animal Mycologists (SIHAM), President of Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists, Coordinator of the ISHAM working group on ‘Fungal sinusitis’ and ‘ABPA in asthmatics’, chair of ‘Asian Fungal Working Group’, and member of two more ISHAM working groups. He is Associate Editor of ‘Medical Mycology’, and Editor/Associate Editor/Deputy Editor of three more journals - Mycopathologia, Journal of Medical Microbiology, Mycoses.

Arunaloke has published >170 papers in the field of Medical Mycology and delivered lectures in >100 medical conferences and societies. He wrote chapters in 11 books. His major contribution is in the field of epidemiology of fungal sinusitis, mucormycosis, and hospital acquired fungal infections. His laboratory identified the endemic regions of fungal sinusitis, sporotrichosis, penicilliosis, source of Cryptococcus gattii in India, emergence of Apophysomyces elegans in tropical countries. His laboratory investigated many nosocomial fungal outbreaks in developing countries, and developed molecular identification and typing methods of zygomycetes. He received multiple awards from National Societies, Academies of India, and was awarded the Fellow of National Academy of Medical Sciences and Fellow of The National Academy of Sciences, India.

Arunaloke has consistently helped in the development of the discipline of Medical Mycology and laboratories in India. He conducts two training courses on medical mycology every year at his center. His laboratory is now recognized as ‘Center of Advanced Research in Medical Mycology’ in India, ‘WHO Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Fungi of Medical Importance’. Recently ‘National Culture Collection of Pathogenic Fungi’ has been added to his laboratory.

David W. Denning FRCP FRCPath FMedSci

President and temporary Executive Director, GAFFI (Part-time)

Current Positions:
Professor of Medicine and Medical Mycology,
University of Manchester,
Director, National Aspergillosis Centre,
University Hospital of South Manchester, UK

Biography:
David Denning is an infectious diseases clinician with expertise in fungal diseases, working in an academic respiratory medicine department in a University hospital. He manages the National Aspergillosis Centre, Manchester, the referral centre in the UK for all patients with chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (a population of 61 million). His group undertakes basic research (genomics, pathogenesis and mechanisms of antifungal drug resistance), applied laboratory work (molecular and serological diagnostics), and clinical studies (description of the natural history of fungal infection, human genetics of aspergillosis and therapy studies). His current foci of interest are chronic and allergic pulmonary fungal disease, the global burden of fungal infection and azole resistance in Aspergillus.

Denning is heavily involved in postgraduate teaching, both clinical scientists and physicians. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Mycology Reference Centre in Manchester (2009), which grew out of the Fungal Testing Laboratory he founded in 1991. His work has been cited over 22,000 times.

Denning is the Founder of 2 University spinout biotechnology companies – F2G Ltd (antifungal drug discovery and development) and Myconostica Ltd (molecular diagnostic tests for fungi), now sold to Lab21. He is also the managing Editor of The Aspergillus Website (1998-) with over 1 million pages read per month.

Denning has chaired the Scientific Committees of several international fungal infection meetings, and co-chairs the alternate year Advances Against Aspergillosis meetings, attracting ~400 delegates for >120 countries. He has lectured worldwide. He leads LIFE (Leading Internal Fungal Education) which is focused on improving patient outcomes through advocacy and education.

David Denning has published more than 400 papers, books and book chapters, including an undergraduate textbook of Medicine.

For information about fungal infection see www.LIFE-Worldwide.org