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WHO Releases First-Ever Fungal Priority Pathogen List


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the first-ever priority pathogen list — which includes 19 fungi — to identify fungi which pose the greatest threat to public health.


GS-2 Health, International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. WHO’s first-ever Fungal Priority Pathogen List
  2. Reason for the rise in fungal infections
  3. Strategy recommended by WHO
  4. World Health Organization (WHO)
  5. World Health Assembly (WHA)

WHO’s first-ever Fungal Priority Pathogen List:

  • The WHO fungal priority pathogens list (FPPL) is the first global effort to systematically prioritize fungal pathogens, considering the unmet research and development (R&D) needs and the perceived public health importance.
  • The list takes precedence from the bacterial priority pathogens list, first established by WHO in 2017 with a similar focus to galvanise global attention and action.
  • This classification is based on the pathogen’s public health impact or emerging antifungal resistance risk. The WHO urges a geography-wise close reading of these lists is key for assessing and tackling the threat.
  • The list has been divided into three categories —  critical, high and medium priority:
  • The list’s publication is opportune as fungi are becoming an increasingly common threat to public health.

Reason for the rise in fungal infections:

  • Global warming and increasing international travel and trade are fuelling this rise. The COVID-19 pandemic saw an increase in mucormycosis or black fungus.
  • Currently, only a few treatment candidates are being tested and just four classes of antifungal medicines are available.
  • Poor diagnostic systems further compound the situation.
  • These factors are especially concerning for the at-risk population — those with comorbidities — such as patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, organ transplants, chronic respiratory disease and post-primary tuberculosis infection.
  • However, with a wide geographic spread resulting in more incidents, resistance to treatment is also on the rise.

Strategy recommended by WHO:

  • Emerging from the shadows of the bacterial antimicrobial resistance pandemic, there is a rise in the number of fungal infections and the consequent rise in the resistance to treatments is becoming a public health concern worldwide.
  • The strategy includes:
    • Strengthening laboratory capacity and surveillance.
    • Sustaining investments in research, development and innovation
    • Enhancing public health interventions for prevention and control.

World Health Organization (WHO)

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health.
  • It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Its main objective is ensuring “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health.”
  • The WHO’s broad mandate includes advocating for universal healthcare, monitoring public health risks, coordinating responses to health emergencies, and promoting human health and well-being.
  • The World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of representatives from all 194 member states, serves as the agency’s supreme decision-making body.

World Health Assembly (WHA)

  • The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO.
  • It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • The Health Assembly is held annually in Geneva, Switzerland (sometimes in special sessions).

The main functions of the World Health Assembly are:

  • To determine the policies of the Organization
  • Appoint the Director-General
  • Supervise financial policies
  • Review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • Reporting to the Economic and Social Council in accordance with any agreement between the Organization and the United Nations.

The Health Assembly is composed of delegates representing Member States.

  • Each Member State is represented by not more than three delegates, one of whom is designated by the Member as chief delegate.
  • These delegates are chosen from among persons most qualified by their technical competence in the field of health, preferably representing the national health administration of the Member.

-Source: Down to Earth

February 2024