Getting an early diagnosis of a fungal infection from a fungal panel test is a critical part of preventing a fairly nasty fungal infection from spreading further and wreaking havoc on your body. In fact, over the past 5 years, there’s been a fairly steady increase in the frequency and severity of fungal infections which has been driven by two factors.
First would be the rise of AIDS (globally) which has caused life threatening fungal infections to spread. Second are the increase in immunocompromised patients on certain drugs like chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs for organ and stem cell transplants and immunomodulators for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. These situations may all present avenues for a fungal infection to take hold.
The diagnosis of these fungal infections has historically been fairly tricky, but recent advancements in testing have opened up new avenues for early detection. Today we’re going to dive into these fungal tests and how they work.
What Is A Fungal Panel Test?
A fungal test is used to help diagnose if you’re experiencing any fungal infections. A fungus (or the plural fungi) are microbial organisms which produce no chlorophyll and almost all reproduce through spores. There are thousands and thousands of different kinds of fungi, with only a very small percentage causing harm to humans. If you’re familiar with yeast or mold, then you’ve encountered fungi, and they’re present everywhere including:
- Indoor on all surfaces
- Outdoors within the air
- On your body
- Within your body
The panel test is looking for specific overgrowth of fungi within your body, and in normal circumstances for humans without immune issues, fungal infections aren’t serious nor a reason for fear. They might cause some uncomfortable rashes or itchy skin, but for the most part they can be treated quickly by your body.
However, in certain situations a fungal infection can get out of control, and this is where you’ll want to get a panel test to determine what’s going on beneath the surface.
There are two separate types of fungal infections to know about:
- Superficial Fungal Infections
- Systemic Fungal Infections
Superficial Fungal Infections
This consists of a fungal infection sitting on your skin, including in your groin and genital area.. This kind of infection is fairly common, generally not serious, and can often be treated with over the counter medication. They include:
- Yeast infections
- Athlete’s foot
Systemic Fungal Infections
This is a fungal infection which penetrates into the tissue of your body or into the matrix of nail beds. Also, a fungus might grow within your lungs, blood, brain, and other organs. They’re very uncommon, especially in healthy individuals, but they can happen to anyone especially if they’re immunocompromised. In normal conditions, if a person has a fungal infection it would only stay within the organ with the disease, however if your immune system is suppressed then these infections can spread quickly from one part of the body to another. This can cause very serious consequences. Some examples of these systemic infections are:
- Sporothrix Schenckii
Both infections (superficial and systemic) are able to be discovered from a fungal panel test.
How Does A Fungal Panel Test Work?
A panel test is a series of tests which help determine where the infection is occurring. Think of a panel as a series of tests which comprise the entire panel. Now, fungi can be present in a variety of different areas, so within a panel you’ll most likely need to do all of these tests. The most common fungal tests include:
- Nail or Skin Scrape
Nail Fungal Culture Test
Here the provider will look for superficial infections within your skin and nails. They will take a special sterilized tool to obtain a small sample of your skin and nail cells. Sometimes they’ll need to grab a formal biopsy, but usually a scrape will be sufficient.
Here a provider is looking to test for a fungal infection within the mouth or vagina. They will get a sterilized swab where they look to gather either tissue or fluid from the fungal entry point (which can include the mouth, vagina, or even an open sore).
In this situation the provider is looking for a systemic infection which can be determined from the composition of your blood. Generally a blood test is used if the provider believes there’s a more serious fungal infection present within the body. Your technician will draw blood using a needle.
This test can be used to classify a systemic fungal infection and can often indicate a more serious infection. A urine test can also be used to identify a vaginal infection (think a yeast infection). The process for this test is straightforward, you will need to pee in a cup.
Sputum is a mucus which is produced by the lungs which is completely different from saliva or nasal mucus. Your provider will ask you to cough up the sputum into a container which will then be sent to a lab for analysis.
As you can see, while fungal infections are quite common, they could quickly become a serious problem if not diagnosed quickly and treated appropriately. This is why fungal panel tests exist with the goal of early detection. If you’re interested, contact Lux Diagnostics for more testing information and to get you started!
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I Need To Prepare For A Fungal Nail Infection Test?
Generally no you won’t need to make any preparations. Often a nail fungal infection can be determined with sight alone, although sometimes a physician will want you to get a panel.
How Do You Collect A Nail Sample For A Fungal Culture?
There are two primary ways to collect a sample. Getting a nail clipping or using a sterile scraper toolto grab skin cells from underneath the nail.
What Does It Mean When A Nail Fungal Test Returns a Negative Result?
This means the laboratory was unable to identify a fungal infection within the nail bed. However, an infection could still be present in certain rare situations, such as a limited collection. Your physician will be able to answer any questions you may have.
How Long Does It Take For A Fungal Culture To Grow?
Usually a fungus will grow within a couple of days, however there are certain fungi with complicated growth requirements, which can take up to weeks to properly identify.