The warm climate also brings new mushrooms

Climate change not only affects flora and fauna, but also influences the growth of potential pathogens. Recent research shows that rising temperatures promote new types of fungal infections in humans.

Athlete’s foot? Annoying! Almost everyone knows the problem that can be brought in from the damp rooms of the gym or hotel. However, fungal infections can be much more than just annoying. In fact, they pose a significant health risk, especially for people whose health is already compromised.

For example, a fungal infection can cause life-threatening complications in patients in intensive care. But even for people with only mild immunosuppression – for example, due to taking cortisone or due to diabetes that is not being treated optimally – an infection with fungi can be dangerous.

Patients at risk receive antidotes

In the worst case, inhaling fungal spores can lead to severe pneumonia or, if transmitted through wounds, blood poisoning. High-risk patients in hospital are therefore routinely given so-called antimycotics, medications that inhibit fungal growth.

Recently, however, doctors around the world have been struggling with new, particularly problematic fungi. In just a few years, Candida auris spread from Japan across the world. The fungus has managed to switch from plants to humans as a host, and researchers assume that global warming has played a crucial role in this.

Adapted to higher temperatures

“It seems that the fungus has adapted to higher temperatures that occur on or in humans. And also to a drier and saltier environment. Only then was it able to jump to the human species,” explains Martin Hönigl from the Department of Infectious Diseases of the Medical University of GrazThe infectious disease specialist played a leading role in a recently published summary of the current state of knowledge on fungal diseases and climate change in the renowned scientific journal “The Lancet“ involved.

“We have to be aware that climate change will create even more problems here in the future,” warns Hönigl. And indeed, Candida auris not an isolated case. In the USA, the increased occurrence of histoplasmosis, an infection with the fungus Histoplasma capsulatumwhich can also cause potentially fatal pneumonia. The fungus, which prefers dry and hot climates, has been able to spread geographically over the past two decades due to climate change and increasingly frequent droughts and is a threat especially to people with weakened immune systems.

Dangerous resistances

Candida auris is now posing challenges to hospitals around the world, as the fungus is not only new, but also particularly resistant. It shows resistance to almost all known antimycotics, which it may have developed through the widespread use of antifungal substances in agriculture before it was transmitted to humans. If the drugs fail to work and the infection cannot be brought under control in people who are already severely weakened, it is fatal in 30 to 40 percent of cases.

The increasing resistance in Candida aurisbut also in well-known native mushroom species such as Candida albicans and Aspergillus show that new drugs against fungal diseases are urgently needed.

Approve new drug classes

“Fortunately, pharmaceutical research recognized this 20 years ago. We hope that several new classes of drugs will be approved in the next two to three years,” says infectious disease specialist Martin Hönigl. But he also points to an existing problem: “Some of these drugs are already approved for use in agriculture and are being released into nature by the ton. That is why we will probably have to expect resistance in the future.” It is now up to politicians to weigh up both food security and the health risk of using antifungal substances – especially in a changing climate.

In numbers

7 years It took a while until Candida auris has spread across all continents.

Increased 6-fold are the number of cases in Germany in 2023.

6 cases from Candida auris has not existed in Austria so far. The name “auris” comes from the fact that the yeast fungus was first found in the ear of a Japanese patient in 2009.

Read more about these topics:

source site