Warmer Temperatures Could Be Helping Dangerous Fungi Spread

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Feb. 2, 2023 -- Could global warming be helping fungi spread dangerous infections among people?

The Wall Street Journal reports that scientific evidence suggests it could be, as “dangerous fungal infections are on the rise.”

The temperature of the human body is too high for most fungi. But as temperatures have risen, some are adapting to higher heat, including within people, the newspaper wrote. “Climate change might also be creating conditions for some disease-causing fungi to expand their geographical range, research shows.”

Previously harmless fungi could “suddenly become potential pathogens,” said Peter Pappas, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The CDC says at least 7,000 people died in the United States from fungal infections in 2021. That’s up from several hundred each year around 1970. 

The Journal noted a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that showed higher temperatures might cause fungi to evolve faster to survive.

“Fungi isn’t transmitted from person to person, but through fungal spores in the air," Asiya Gusa, a study co-author and postdoctoral researcher in Duke’s Molecular Genetics and Microbiology department, said. “They’re in our homes, they’re everywhere."

The World Health Organization has identified Cryptococcus, Coccidioides, Histoplasma and Candida auris as being among the fungal pathogens of greatest threat to people.

“We keep saying these fungi are rare, but this must be the most common rare disease because they’re now everywhere," said Andrej Spec, a co-author of the analysis and an associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.