In what appears to be the first-ever recorded case of its kind, a fungus that usually infects plants has infected a human host, putting root-like filaments into his body.
A 61-year-old mycologist in India contracted a severe case of silver leaf disease — a fungus that can prove fatal for a huge variety of plants — in his throat, ScienceAlert reports.
In other words, it sounds a lot like the opening episodes of HBO's hit TV series "The Last of Us."
There are only a few fungi capable of infecting humans, like ringworm or athlete's foot, but experts have long warned that due to fungi's ability to evolve rapidly, that picture could soon change. Fungal pathogens can quickly become immune to antifungals or even force the immune system to turn against itself, meaning the threat could be significant.
In a new article published in the journal Medical Mycology Case Reports, researchers detail the case of the Indian mycologist, who they claim is the first reported case of the human infection of the plant fungus Chondrostereum purpureum.
An analysis of samples taken from a pus-filled abscess in the Indian man's throat later revealed long, root-like filaments called hyphae. Only with special molecular sequencing were scientists able to identify "this unusual pathogen" after conventional techniques such as microscopy or lab culture "failed to identify the fungus."
"This case highlights the potential of environmental plant fungi to cause disease in humans," the report reads, "and stresses the importance of molecular techniques to identify the causative fungal species."
Worse yet, the likelihood of a fungus gaining the ability to jump from human host to host is likely on the increase.
"The worsening of global warming and other civilization activities opens Pandora's Box for newer fungal diseases," the paper reads, thanks to an increasing number of fungal pathogens acquiring "the ability to survive at body temperatures."
Fortunately, the human body has a large number of natural defense mechanisms to ward off invading fungal pathogens, but not everybody is on the same playing field. Especially for the immunocompromised, the risks of infection are considerably higher.
In short, it'll likely take a particularly nasty fungus to break the human body's protective barriers and jump from human to human.
In the meantime, we also have a broad variety of antifungals to help out as well. The Indian patient in question was treated with the "surgical drainage of the abscess and long-term oral antifungal therapy."
While rare, the case should motivate us to study how these fungi can jump from infecting plants to humans.
"The cross-kingdom pathogenicity demands much work to be done in order to explore insights of the mechanisms involved," the researchers conclude, "thus leading to possible recommendations to control and contain these infections."
More on fungi: Next Pandemic Could Be Caused by Horrid Fungi
Share This Article