Five-year-old boy dies of rare fungal infection as family raise funds to combat disease

The heartbroken family of a five-year-old who died of a rare fungal infection have raised funds to help combat the disease.

Noah Tesselaar died in June 2020 after his leukaemia blood cancer left his immune system too weak to fight off the invasive fungal infection.

The fungus, called Mucormycosis, is very hard to diagnose and treat and doctors looking after little Noah were unable to identify that it had taken hold until after his death.

In an effort to ensure that diagnosis and treatment happen faster in future Noah’s family have set-up a fund in his memory.

The charity, called Noah’s Pink Balloon Leukaemia Fund, aims to support vital research to help medics diagnose and identify the type of fungal infection a patient has so that treatment can be offered early.

Now, they have raised enough money to launch a research fellowship at the University of Exeter.

The Noah’s Pink Balloon Fellowship as just appointed a new clinical research fellow who will research Mucormycosis trying to find better ways to diagnose and treat the disease.

The researcher, Alyssa Hudson, a registrar in medical microbiology at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital said Mucormycosis is “incredibly difficult” to diagnose, particularly at an early stage when it is most treatable.

Alyssa, originally from St Austell in Cornwall, said: “During my clinical research fellowship, I will focus on developing rapid and easy-to-use diagnostics for Mucormycosis, using existing technology and methods developed by Prof Chris Thornton, a principal investigator at the Centre for Medical Mycology at the University of Exeter.

“Fungal infection is an underfunded research area and receives far less investment than research into infections caused by bacteria and viruses.

“The funding we have received from Noah’s Pink Balloon Leukaemia Fund has made this fellowship possible and will further research into this neglected and deadly fungal infection.”

Chair and trustee of Noah’s Pink Balloon Leukaemia Fund Susan Tesselaar said: “We are so delighted to launch the fellowship as the first major research project for the charity.

“Research is what Noah’s Pink Balloon is all about, it is the key to preventing what happened to Noah happening to others in the future.

“I would like to thank the University of Exeter’s MRC Centre for Medical Mycology for partnering with us and we look forward to working together in a bid to bring urgent attention to invasive fungal infections and subsequently saving lives.”

To donate to Noah’s Pink Balloon, visit