Fungi adapting to body temperature, resisting drugs

Fungi adapting to body temperature, resisting drugs

Adapting Fungi

Researchers have discovered that fungi are adapting to human body temperature and becoming drug-resistant, with potential links to climate change being explored. Candida auris, a fungus resistant to multiple antifungal medications, has recently emerged as a significant threat. Although we inhale fungal spores daily, only about 20 species among millions cause infections in humans.

Our immune systems and body heat (around 37°C) typically prevent fungal infections. However, new research indicates that some fungi are evolving, now capable of infecting humans and resisting drugs. A team examined records from 98 hospitals in China between 2009 and 2019, identifying two patients infected with fungi not previously known to infect humans.

These fungi were found to infect immunocompromised mice, mimicking potential human infections. Notably, these fungi survived at 37°C, suggesting they may adapt to higher temperatures, increasing their mutation rates and drug resistance. Jatin Vyas, a physician-scientist at Harvard Medical School, said, “This paper shows that other fungal organisms could also adapt to cause human diseases.” He added that while it’s not an apocalyptic scenario like in “The Last of Us,” emerging fungal pathogens could still cause serious infectious diseases with limited treatment options available.

Fungi adapting and drug resistance

The study’s authors believe global warming drives fungal pathogens to evolve and become more virulent. Rising temperatures may enable fungi to adapt to human body heat and survive, although more direct evidence is needed to confirm this link.

Some fungal species can already grow at higher temperatures, but further research is necessary. Drug-resistant fungal pathogens present a growing global threat. These pathogens have been detected in regions including Spain, Portugal, and Canada, raising concerns about their spread.

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Current antifungal medications are limited, and developing new treatments is challenging due to potential side effects in humans. Evolutionary biologist Toni Gabaldón emphasized the challenge of developing new drugs, given fungi and mammals are both eukaryotic, increasing the potential for side effects. Despite the risks, Vyas sees a silver lining.

“Studies like these prepare us better for pathogenic organisms,” he said. Understanding how fungi adapt can help develop future protection mechanisms.


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