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Marijuana Use and Fungal Respiratory Infections

By: Elyse Watkins, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA

A recent study published in the CDC’s Journal of Infectious Disease describes the incidence of upper and lower respiratory fungal infections among marijuana users in the United States. The data was retrieved through a retrospective analysis of insurance claims from 2016. The authors scanned one of the largest databases in the country for specific ICD-10 codes related to respiratory and ocular fungal infections and also for cannabis use. They adjusted for immunocompromised status. The findings are quite surprising. Younger people who use cannabis were more likely to require hospitalization for their fungal infection, be immunocompromised, and use tobacco products. The results revealed that cannabis users were 3.5 times more likely to develop a fungal infection. A few theories exist as to why this occurred, including the possibility that marijuana could have been contaminated, but nevertheless, the study opens the door for further discussion. It is also a reminder to keep these rare but potentially dangerous infections on the list of differential diagnoses for marijuana users who present with atypical respiratory symptoms once more acute infections have been ruled out, such as COVID-19.


Benedict K, Thompson GR, Jackson BR. Cannabis Use and Fungal Infections in a Commercially Insured Population, United States, 2016. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2020;26(6):1308-1310. doi:10.3201/eid2606.191570.

See Elyse Watkins, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA speak in 2020 at a Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts event in  Destin and Pensacola Beach.