Virus: The expert explains where the pathogens come from
A new hit TV show has highlighted the threat of superfungi, which experts have warned poses a “huge threat to public health” and could threaten to spark the next global crisis if not carefully monitored. Pathogenic fungi are fungi that cause disease in humans or other organisms. Currently, there are about 300 fungi known to be pathogenic to humans. While a number of these have been on health officials’ radars for some time, in October, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “growing fungal threat” when it published its first-ever list of “priority fungal pathogens.”
The list contained 19 types of fungi that are considered to pose the greatest threat to human health. The organization also warned that super fungi are becoming more common and resistant to treatments.
WHO says: “Fungal pathogens pose a significant threat to public health because they have become increasingly common and resistant to treatment, with only four classes of antifungal drugs currently available. Most fungal pathogens lack rapid and sensitive diagnosis and those that do exist are not widely available or globally affordable.”
The health agency also warned that some of the strains on the list are becoming increasingly drug-resistant and becoming more common. It has also raised alarm about a historical lack of focus on the dangers posed by fungal pathogens, which has led to large gaps in knowledge, and a lack of monitoring, treatments, and diagnosis.
However, awareness now seems to be growing as conversations about fungi enter the mainstream thanks to the new dystopian TV drama – The Last of Us. The 1960s HBO show began with a chilling speech from an epidemiologist warning of the danger of fungus.
Awareness of the dangers of fungal pathogens is increasing
The Last of Us, a new hit TV show, has brought the threat of super fungi into mainstream conversations
Played by John Hannah, one of the characters who warns: “If the world gets a little warmer, there is a reason for evolution,” referring to supernatural fungi and their ability to infect and overpower a person’s mind.
The supernatural mushroom at the heart of the story is cordyceps, which does exist in real life but likely won’t be anywhere near as alarming as the mass cordyceps outbreak and devastating pandemic the latest us might suggest.
In fact, Cordyceps wasn’t even on the World Health Organization’s list of threats. But the show still got people talking about the potential threat of fungal infection.
For example, public health expert Dr Lucky Tran tweeted: “Before COVID I thought humans were too smart and co-operative to let fungus take over the planet, but now I know better #TheLastOfUs.
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Killer fungi are able to grow at human body temperature
“In the year 2023, the idea that civilization could collapse due to an uncontrolled outbreak and global warming seems terrifyingly more real #TheLastOfUs.”
This comes after Dr Hanan Balkhi, WHO Assistant Director-General for Antimicrobial Resistance Affairs, warned: “Due to the emergence of the antimicrobial resistance pandemic, fungal infections are on the rise, becoming more resistant to treatments, becoming a public health concern worldwide. “
According to Professor Eileen Bennell, a world leader in human fungal pathogen research, fungal infections can have “devastating results”.
She told Sky News: “There are many fungi that infect human brains across the planet, often with devastating results. There are a number of fungal species that are prominent pathogens and kill hundreds of thousands of people every year – if only because the public isn’t well aware of it.” “.
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Cordyceps does exist in real life but poses little threat to humans
She added, “One of the things that killer fungi have in common is that they are able to grow at human body temperature, which is very unusual for a fungus.”
Invasive fungal infections pose the greatest threat to health for critically ill patients and others with compromised immune systems. High-risk groups include patients undergoing organ transplants, or people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and chronic respiratory diseases.
According to the Global Fungal Infection Action Fund, an estimated 300 million people suffer from serious fungal infections annually, resulting in 1.6 million deaths each year.
Evidence also indicates that the prevalence and geographical range of fungal diseases are increasing. The Candida fungus, for example, is becoming more resistant to treatment and is becoming widespread.
Invasive fungal infections pose the greatest threat to health for patients who are already critically ill
The fungal infection can cause oral and vaginal thrush and was recently discovered in Mississippi for the first time ever.
“This is the first time we have had a locally acquired case in Mississippi,” said Bhagyashri Navalkele, assistant professor in the UMMC Division of Infectious Diseases. “The public should be aware that we are seeing this fungus.”
Professor Bennell warned that the world should be on “standby”.
She told Sky News: “We have to have a good understanding of how different fungi can cause disease in humans, how our immune systems deal with those microbes, and a good medicine cabinet of anti-fungal agents that we know are effective.”
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