The Last of Us? 61-year-old infected with 'world first' plant fungus infection

It has been reported that a 61-year-old mycologist in India has been infected in a "world first" case of plant fungi being able to jump to humans.
Christopher McFadden
Chondrostereum purpureum is a fungus that causes "Silver-leaf" in plants.

Strobilomyces/Wikimedia Commons 

A rare fungal disease from a fungus that causes "Silver Leaf" disease, which is deadly for plants, was reported to have infected a 61-year-old Indian farmer. This "world first" makes the man the first-ever human victim of the disease. The man, a plant mycologist, had flu-like symptoms and difficulty swallowing. It was discovered that he had contracted Chondrostereum purpureum, the fungus that causes silver leaf disease. The man didn't have any health problems, and he thought he got sick from working with molds, yeast, and mushrooms while studying to become a plant mycologist.

Doctors who treated the patient shared the case files with the World Health Organization (WHO), where the news probably broke. According to a Daily Mail report, the researchers claimed there had never been any proof that a specific fungus could infect people. The patient received two courses of antifungal medication for two months, and the pus was sent to a WHO-collaborating facility in northern India for testing. The researchers noted that only a few of the millions of fungi today could infect people and animals.

The medics who treated the man said his case "raises serious questions" about the ability of plant pathogens to cause disease in healthy humans and animals. Professor Elaine Bignell of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology said that the patient might have a genetic immune deficiency that was not known before. She further explained that the man in the Kolkata case "may have been exposed to an incredibly high number of spores somehow" due to his experimental or botanical situation.

Prof Bignell stressed that there was no cause for alarm but added: "It's a new kid on the block, and we don't know much about it."

The WHO has listed 19 fungi that could threaten public health, and there has been a "significant" increase in fungal infections during the COVID pandemic.

Various types of fungi can impact humans, including Candida species, which are behind complaints like thrush, and Cryptococcosis neoformans, which infects the lungs and brain, causing pneumonia and meningitis. Aspergillus fumigatus, a common mold, can cause chronic and acute lung disease and can be deadly. Additionally, Candida auris, a type of yeast, has been spreading rapidly through health facilities in the US. These fungi are a cause for concern, and it is crucial to understand how they can affect humans and how to prevent their spread.

Additionally, as the planet warms up due to climate change, it is feared that known and unknown fungi could emerge as potential threats as they learn to survive on a hotter planet. However, there is no cause for alarm, and experts stress that more research is needed to understand how these fungi can affect humans and animals.

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