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Monday, December 4, 2023

Fatal Fungal Infections on the Rise: A Consequence of Global Warming


New Delhi: In a concerning development, US health officials have underscored the escalating threat of fungal infections due to the global rise in temperatures. According to these officials, the warming climate is propelling fungal organisms to adapt and better infect humans, potentially leading to severe consequences, as reported by The Telegraph.

Dr. Michael Kurilla, a director at the US National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, explained that many fungal pathogens naturally exist in the environment and are not well-suited to thrive at the typical human body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. However, the effects of global warming are altering this dynamic, facilitating the colonization, infection, and invasion of these pathogens in both humans and other mammalian species.

One particular concern highlighted by health experts is Candida auris, a fungal pathogen with a fatality rate ranging from 30 to 72 percent. Initially identified in Japan in 2009, this pathogen has rapidly spread worldwide, with approximately 30 countries reporting its presence. Candida auris is notoriously challenging to detect and even more difficult to treat. Furthermore, it exploits weakened immune systems and has emerged as a multidrug-resistant healthcare-associated fungal pathogen, leading to outbreaks in hospitals across the globe.

A study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine in March, revealed a steady increase in clinical cases of Candida auris between 2019 and 2021. During this period, the number of reported cases surged from 476 to 1,471, indicating a worrisome trend.

Dr. Prabhavathi Fernandes, an advisor to the World Health Organization, described the situation as a “perfect storm.” The confluence of rising resistance rates, a growing population of immunosuppressed individuals worldwide, and the adaptation of Candida auris to higher temperatures intensifies the urgency of addressing this issue.

Additionally, experts note that the surge in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and long Covid creates an environment conducive to fungal infections. These factors further compound the risks associated with the spread and impact of fungal pathogens.

The implications of this growing threat necessitate immediate action. Heightened surveillance, improved detection methods, and the development of effective treatments are crucial in combating these fungal infections. Moreover, addressing the root cause of the issue—climate change—remains imperative to prevent further escalation of the threat and safeguard human lives.


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