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What is Histoplasmosis?

Cave disease / Darling's disease / Reticuloendotheliosis / Spelunker’s Lung

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum., which grows in pigeon droppings. It also grows in soils and is found throughout the world.

Symptoms of histoplasmosis begin to appear about 10 days after initial infection. Most cases of histoplasmosis produce no symptoms or very mild ones. Those with compromised immune systems such as cancer patients or people living with HIV/AIDS are generally more at risk of developing histoplasmosis.

Symptoms of this infection vary greatly, but the disease primarily affects the lungs. Occasionally, other organs are affected; this is called disseminated histoplasmosis, and it can be fatal if left untreated.

In rare cases the following symptoms occur:

  • Sudden flu-like infection
  • Chronic lung infection
  • Trouble breathing

When the disease spreads throughout the body, it affects many organ systems. A person may then develop the following symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Meningitis
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Infection of heart valves
  • Pneumonia
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • Swollen lymph nodes


Mild cases of histoplasmosis may not need treatment. More serious cases, with symptoms that include high fever, trouble breathing, loss of appetite, and malaise, are treated with anti-fungal medications.

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