Lesli is 12 years old, and is currently being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Lukemia at a World Child Cancer site in Mexico. During the maintenance phase of chemotherapy, Lesli developed Mucormycosis, a rare but frequently fatal fungal infection among pediatric cancer patients. Mucor is commonly found in the environment, and lives in soil, leaves, decaying wood products and other organic materials. Everyone breathes in these fungal spores routinely, and for most of us with healthy immune systems, this fungus poses no harm.
But for children receiving chemotherapy these infections are serious threats. While chemotherapy is undeniably effective in treating childhood cancer, it is accompanied by a host of complications. One of those complications is a low white blood cell count (the cells that protect us from infections) which places the patient at risk for serious and life threatening fungal infections. This complication most often affects patients with leukemia. Mucormycosis can affect any organ in the body but it most frequently invades the lungs, sinuses and brain. It rapidly develops and quickly invades affected organs and can spread to organs in the body if not treated. Mortality rates range from 50 to 70% when a cancer patient develops this infection. It is uniformly fatal if not treated with anti-fungal therapy such as Amphotericin B.
Fortunately Lesli was able to receive the anti-fungal therapy she needed, and is now doing well.