Pythiosis results from the infection with the fungal-like organism Pythium insidiosum and occurs in Equines, Canines, Felines, Bovines, Humans and other species. This disease is also known as Phycomycosis, “Florida Horse Leeches”, Swamp Cancer and other colloquial names. The disease is worldwide in distribution and is especially prevalent in tropical regions. Recently, numerous cases have been reported in the Midwest and Northeast United States and as far north as Wisconsin and Washington state.
Pythium insidiosum is an Oomycete of the Kingdom Stramenopila. Pythium develops hyphae like structures and, in culture, appears similar to the fungi. It is one of many organisms belonging to the Pythium family which typically infect plants in very wet environments. Pythium propagates by producing motile Oospores which travel through standing water and infect new hosts. Oospores which come in contact with susceptible animals may invade via breaks in the skin and set up infection.
During the past 10 years, we have studied the Pythium life cycle, introduced several immunological diagnostic assays, and developed an immunotherapeutic product to treat the patient's allergic reaction which is the key to the tissue destruction seen in Pythium infections.