Role of Global Warming in the Emergence of Candida auris
Role of Global Warming in the Emergence of Candida auris
A deadly fungus is spreading from person to person. Is climate change to blame?
27 July, 2019, 01:27
The study-published Tuesday in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology-argues that Candida auris "may be the first example of a new fungal disease emerging from climate change".
Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiology professor at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the paper, suggested almost 10 years ago that fungi would become more heat-tolerant as Earth became warmer, causing humans to lose the advantage that our high body temperatures provide.
Candida auris is different. Genetically distinct versions of the fungus have sprung up simultaneously in India, South Africa and South America, perplexing researchers in the process.
Proving that global warming spurred the emergence of C. auris as a human pathogen will be hard, but Casadevall and colleagues argue that this possibility-and the possibility that other new fungal pathogens will emerge-must be kept in mind as the global average temperature continues to rise.
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, investigated the rise of C.auris and suggested warming is causing it. Something happened to allow this organism to bubble up and cause disease'.
Extremes of temperature are known to kill fungi and the heat required to destroy them varies across different strains.
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Microbiologists estimate there are more than a million fungal species. "We can't raise our temperature and walk around with a high fever all the time".
In the study, C.auris was able to survive at higher temperatures than other, similar, fungi, suggesting it is evolving. But, as the authors of the new study theorize, as global temperatures have risen, C. auris evolved to thrive in warmer conditions which happen to mirror the internal temperature of the human body (around 98 degrees Fahrenheit) making us hotbeds - nearly literally - for the pathogen. Two instances of this statement not being true would be the high prevalence of fungal infections in individuals with advanced HIV infection due to a weakened immune system, and white-nose syndrome in bats that occurs during their hibernation process when their temperature drops.
Fungal infections tend to attack the entire system and can be very threatening if left untreated. In this case, Candida auris affects only the skin and the inner parts of the human ear.
In the United States there have been 587 reported cases, mostly in New York, New Jersey and IL.
"We are pretty good at surveilling influenza and diseases that cause diarrhea or are contagious, but fungal diseases are not usually contagious and therefore nobody has really bothered to document them well", he said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said C. auris has been found to be resistant to all three of the most common antifungal drugs, and more than a third of people afflicted with invasive cases of the fungus die. Unless illnesses are reported in medical literature, scientists won't know the fungi is spreading.
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