First Wellcome Trust open access book charts the increase in serious fungal disease in Britain and the USA

The ‘grand narrative’ of 20th-century medicine is of the conquest of infectious diseases, through public health measures, vaccine and antibiotics. However, a new book looks more closely at fungal diseases (e.g. athlete's foot and thrush) within this narrative, challenging the assumption that they were previously seen to cause irritation rather than illness and were therefore marginal to medical advances.

'Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000', written by Dr Aya Homei and Professor Michael Worboys from the University of Manchester and published today, is the first research monograph to be made open access under an extension of the Wellcome Trust’s open access policy. The book is also the first open access book from academic publisher Palgrave Macmillan.

The book charts the history of fungal infections over the course of last century. It examines how some types of infection - for example, invasive aspergillosis and systemic candidiasis - became more prevalent and serious.

The authors highlight that these infections mostly affect people who have benefited from medical advances, such as antibiotic treatment and transplantation, and those with conditions affecting immunity. By contrast, minor, chronic and mostly external fungal infections (e.g. ringworm and athlete's foot) have remained common, but better controlled by antifungal medication.

Professor Worboys, Director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Manchester, said: "Fungal diseases cluster at the ends of the infectious disease spectrum, being either widely prevalent and quite mild, or rare and life-threatening. It has been fascinating to research diseases that are self-limiting, self-treated and typically do not reach the doctor’s surgery, while considering infections associated with high-tech medical advances and sites, such as intensive care units."

In May 2013, the Trust extended its open access policy to include all scholarly monographs and book chapters written by its grantholders as part of their research. This was to address the fact that key research findings - particularly in the medical humanities - are also often published as scholarly monographs or book chapters, which had previously not been included in the open access policy.

'Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000' is the first publication to result from this updated policy.

Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, comments: "We are delighted that this new book will be made freely available to as wide an audience as possible. The Wellcome Trust is committed to promoting research in the history of medicine and medical humanities, and working with authors and publishers to make this research accessible. The release of Dr Homei and Professor Worboy’s book demonstrates how well this can work, and others will follow their lead."

'Fungal Disease in Britain and the United States 1850-2000' is published by Palgrave Macmillan under a CC-BY license and is now available for free in all main digital formats, via Palgrave Connect and major online retailers.