If you were coughing, running a fever and felt short of breath, what would you think? Those are common symptoms of COVID-19. But not everyone with such symptoms is infected with the virus.
In this episode, we tell the story of a Michael Moffitt, a young man who grew up in St. Louis but was been working in the oil and gas fields of New Mexico. He got sick in November 2020 with a cough, fever and shortness of breath, initially leading his doctor to assume he had COVID-19. Moffitt's tests for the virus came back negative, but for weeks, his health-care providers in New Mexico wondered whether the tests were accurate. He was being treated with antibiotics, but when Moffitt lost 30 pounds in three weeks and needed supplemental oxygen, he knew he needed another opinion.
After his wife and mother-in-law drove 14 hours to bring him to St. Louis, Moffitt saw infectious diseases specialist Andrej Spec, MD — an associate professor of medicine and a specialist in fungal infections. Spec put him in the hospital and quickly solved the medical mystery. Moffitt had a fungal infection, likely acquired while exploring caves in New Mexico. Spec started him on strong antifungal medications, and he fully recovered. Spec says the majority of people who have symptoms of COVID-19 actually do have that viral illness. But when treatments don’t work, he says, it’s important for doctors to think a little differently and consider other factors that may cause illness. Many people have fungal infections in their lungs at some point in their lives, he says. Most of those infections are asymptomatic or feel like bad colds, but in some instances, the infections can become life-threatening without proper treatment.
The podcast, “Show Me the Science,” is produced by the Office of Medical Public Affairs at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.