Quantcast

Rise of Drug-Resistant Fungal Disease Could Be Due to Global Warming

Health + Wellness
Candida auris was first identified in 2009. It causes serious multidrug-resistant infections in hospitalized patients and has high mortality rates. Kateryna Kon / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

A new analysis warns that "global warming may have played a pivotal role" in the recent rise of a multidrug-resistant fungal superbug, sparking questions and concerns about the emerging public health threats of the human-caused climate crisis.


Reporting on the research Tuesday, CNN outlined the history of Candida auris:

Until recently, scientists considered it a mystery how C. auris popped up in more than 30 countries around the globe a decade after it was first discovered in 2009. It emerged simultaneously on three continents — in India, Venezuela, and South Africa — between 2012 and 2015, each strain being genetically distinct.

The study — published Tuesday in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology — argues that Candida auris "may be the first example of a new fungal disease emerging from climate change."

"The argument that we are making based on comparison to other close relative fungi is that as the climate has gotten warmer, some of these organisms, including Candida auris, have adapted to the higher temperature, and as they adapt, they break through human's protective temperatures," lead author Arturo Casadevall, chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Fungal diseases are relatively uncommon in humans because of body temperature — but if they adapt to rising temperatures, and aren't easily treatable with medications, they could increasingly endanger human health on a global scale. Casadevall warned that while C. auris may be the first fungal disease whose emergence scientists have tied to rising temperatures, it potentially won't be the last.

"Global warming may lead to new fungal diseases that we don't even know about right now," he said. "What this study suggests is this is the beginning of fungi adapting to higher temperatures, and we are going to have more and more problems as the century goes on."

Stat News published a piece Tuesday that mentions the new study but also addresses a series of pressing questions about the emerging superbug with help from experts who include Tom Chiller, chief of mycotic diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Tejas Bouklas, an assistant professor in the department of biomedical sciences at Long Island University.

Among those questions is: "Could C. auris help other fungi adapt to be bigger threats to humans?"

That's a question Bouklas is wondering about. "The more ubiquitous it becomes, the more problematic. Because now it could potentially transmit DNA to other Candida species. And maybe even bacteria," she said.
That idea is not far-fetched. Fungi can mate sexually, Chiller pointed out, allowing them to swap large amounts of DNA.

In light of the potential impacts of the climate crisis on public health highlighted in the study, Casadevall charged in his statement that "we need to make investments in better surveillance of fungal diseases."

"We are pretty good at surveilling influenza and diseases that cause diarrhea or are contagious, but fungal diseases are not usually contagious and therefore nobody has really bothered to document them well," he said. "If more fungi were to cross over, you really wouldn't know until somebody started reporting them in the literature."

Chiller, in his interview with Stat News, agreed that more research on the superbug is vital to protecting the public.

Understanding C. auris's backstory is crucial, Chiller said, because "these things are going to continue to emerge. And understanding how they emerge and where they emerge might lead us to prevention strategies or reactive strategies or preparation strategies for the next big thing."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of the Kudala Sangama submerged in floodwaters about 460 kms of the South Indian city of Bangalore on Aug. 10. Floods have displaced hundreds of thousands across much of India with the southern state of Kerala worst hit, authorities said on Aug. 10. STR / AFP / Getty Images

The southern India state of Kerala, having lost almost a million homes in two disastrous floods in 2018 and 2019, is trying to adapt to climate change by building homes for the poor that are flood-resistant.

Read More Show Less
The Paradise Fossil Plant in Kentucky. Coal-fired power plants are a major source of air pollution. TVA / GPA Photo Archive / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Tweeting that the U.S. has the cleanest air in the world does not make it so. Not only do we rank 10th, but a new study says that after steady improvement during the Obama-era, air pollution has gotten worse while Donald Trump has been president.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
In this Oct. 7 handout photo from the Aracaju Municipal Press Office, workers are removing oil from Viral Beach, in Aracaju, Brazil. The spill has been polluting Brazil's beaches since early September. Aracaju Municipal Press Office / AP

More than 1,000 miles of shoreline in Brazil are now contaminated by a mysterious oil spill. that has lasted for weeks as the country struggles to clean what may be its largest oil spill in history.

Read More Show Less
Sunset with crepuscular rays over downtown Miami as seen from Miami Beach, Florida. Diana Robinson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Youth activists rallying in front of Miami Beach's City Hall successfully campaigned for the coastal city to declare a climate emergency, the Miami Herald reported.

Read More Show Less
Nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the pollutants released by diesel vehicles are a major source of air pollution in London. Jack Taylor / Stringer / Getty Images

On days where air pollution is higher, hundreds of people across nine major cities in England are suffering from more potentially fatal cardiac arrests or heading to the hospital for strokes or severe asthma attacks, according to new research from King's College in London.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A diet high in fish and vegetables can help keep your gut healthy. Linda Raymond / E+ / Getty Images

By Heather Cruickshank

Trillions of bacteria and other microbes live in the human digestive system. Together, they form a community that's known as the gut microbiota.

Many bacteria in the microbiota play important roles in human health, helping to metabolize food, strengthen intestinal integrity and protect against disease.

Read More Show Less
The message of the global movement to ban fracking and get off fossil fuels envisions a different future, one that starts with cutting off pollution at the source. cta88 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Wenonah Hauter

Donald Trump's scheduled visit to a fracking industry gathering in Pittsburgh this week is a hugely symbolic moment for the 2020 election campaign, as well as the urgent battle to contain climate catastrophe.

Read More Show Less
Animals most targeted by the fur industry include minks, foxes and rabbits. Hal Trachtenberg / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Macy's announced Monday that it will stop selling fur by 2021, The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less