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A Rise in Fungal Diseases is Taking Growing Toll on Wildlife
“Fungi have driven more animal species extinct than any other class of pathogens by quite a long way,” says Matthew Fisher, an epidemiologist at Imperial College in London. Fisher and his colleagues calculate that fungi have caused more than 80 percent of known disease-driven animal extinctions. (Viruses, by comparison, are responsible for only 1 percent.) The vast majority of these fungi-driven extinctions have happened in the past 20 years. The first proven victim, Fisher says, was a captive population of Polynesian tree snails, wiped out by fungal disease in a London zoo in the 1990s.
This lethal pattern is partly explained by the independence and flexibility of fungal species: Unlike viruses, they don’t usually depend on their hosts for survival, and unlike both viruses and bacteria, which tend to be more specialized, they can quickly switch to new hosts.
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which attacks the outer skin layers of amphibians, disrupting their water and electrolyte intake so severely that infected animals can die of cardiac arrest. The fungus, known familiarly as Bd, has been found in more than 500 species of amphibians in 54 countries to date, most recently in Asia. Some areas of Central America have lost more than 40 percent of their amphibian species to Bd infection.
Karen Lips, a University of Maryland herpetologist who has watched Bd march through Central American amphibian populations for almost 20 years, says no amphibian is safe: “We live in a Bd world now,” she says.
Bd is just one of several modern-day eruptions of fungal disease. White-nose syndrome, first observed in North American bats in New York State in early 2007, is thought to be caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, and the disease is estimated to have killed well over a million cave-dwelling bats and has now spread to 19 states and four Canadian provinces. Biologists describe the epidemic as the most dramatic decline of North American wildlife in living memory.
Fungal disease also appears to play a key role in colony-collapse disorder, the recent and sudden dieoff of North American bees: Scientists posit that the bees are weakened and killed by multiple factors, including a one-two punch from a virus and a fungal parasite. In the Caribbean, a fungus called Aspergillus sydowii has contributed to the precipitous decline of coral reefs, sweeping through populations of sea fans weakened by rising ocean temperatures.
And in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia over the past decade, a new and virulent strain of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii, which attacks the lungs and nervous system, has killed more than 30 people, and infected dogs as well.
Many researchers have noticed the number and severity of these emerging fungal diseases. “I think there’s absolutely no question that there’s been a huge increase in fungal infections,” says Joseph Heitman, a microbiologist at Duke University Medical Center who studies Cryptococcus gattii.
Emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health
The past two decades have seen an increasing number of virulent infectious diseases in natural populations and managed landscapes. In both animals and plants, an unprecedented number of fungal and fungal-like diseases have recently caused some of the most severe die-offs and extinctions ever witnessed in wild species, and are jeopardizing food security.
Fungus likely to take a hit on banana crops worldwide
If a banana is part of your daily breakfast fare, you may want to brace yourself for this news: A fungus is making its way across the globe, destroying banana crops and threatening to deplete the world's supply of the popular fruit.
"It's expected to devastate banana plantations all through South America. It would take two, three or four years for it to get all across Latin America, and it could make bananas a very expensive, exotic, holiday treat instead of an everyday shelf item,"
An Unprecedented Plague Has Hit Oranges
Citrus greening disease has been a steadily growing problem that has reached epidemic levels this year. Because of this disease, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting that orange production in the U.S. this year will be down 18 percent compared to last year.... the worst in nearly 30 years
Think Fungus—Prevention and Control of Fungal Infections
Reports of human infections with environmental fungi are on the increase throughout the world. Many of these reports describe infections caused by new agents, as well as by traditional agents with new virulence factors or new mechanisms of infection. Fungal infections historically have been underrecognized and difficult to detect, and treatment options are poor.
Fungal diseases...appear to be emerging beyond their traditionally described borders for reasons that are not entirely understood.
Because most invasive fungal infections have high mortality rates, reducing the incidence of these diseases often relies on rapid and specific diagnostics, effective antifungal drugs, novel immunotherapeutic strategies, and adherence to infection control and sterility practices.
Broader control of fungal exposures in the community can also be improved by awareness, especially education regarding high-risk practices and activities.
Fungal infections remain serious and underappreciated causes of illness and death. Much can be done to prevent the consequences of these infections, although environmental exposure to these agents may not be entirely avoidable in the community. Continued public health efforts toward defining, characterizing, and tracking the emergence of fungal
infections can help to focus studies on priority infections and settings. Future translational research is urgently needed to develop novel diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments as more is learned about the pathogenesis of fungal infections and the biology of fungal agents.
The 'Silent Epidemic' of Valley Fever in the Southwest U.S.
Valley fever, a potentially fatal dust-borne infection caused by a soil-dwelling fungus, has lurked in the deserts of the Southwest United States for hundreds of years, if not longer. But in the past decade, the disease has seen an uptick in cases, leading to a “silent epidemic,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because of increasing development in arid climates where the fungus lives, as well as better testing and diagnosis, the infection’s incidence has skyrocketed, reaching 22,500 cases in 2011, up from 2,265 in 1998. But with many cases going unreported, experts believe as many as 150,000 people may be sickened annually.
Valley Fever: Death Toll Rising
Between 1990 and 2008 there were 3,089 documented deaths nationwide in which valley fever — also known as coccidioidomycosis — was an underlying or contributing cause, according to the research study of death certificates.
That’s nearly twice the number reported by the CDC in the past, which has recorded as few as 73 in 2003 to as high as 100 in 2004. “Coccidioidomycosis remains a major cause of death in the United States,” wrote Jennifer Y. Huang, who authored the study as her master’s thesis at the Keck School of Medicine at USC along with researchers from UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health.
This Poison Fungus Is Evolving to Get Deadlier
The Pacific-Northwest now finds itself home to a fungal species known as Cryptococcus gattii, a Brazilian variety first discovered on Vancouver Island in 1999. Fifteen years and several deaths later, C. gattii has adapted to its new home and now poses a threat serious enough to warrant “global health vigilance,” according to a new open-access study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen). "We identified several genes that may make the outbreak strains more capable of surviving colder environments and that make it more harmful in the lungs," said David Engelthaler, the study’s lead author, in a TGen statement.
Deadly fungal disease detected outside the Pacific Northwest
A rare fungus found in soil and trees has sickened hundreds of people in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest in the last decade -- and killed dozens -- but scientists now say they’re seeing different strains of the potentially deadly bug in additional U.S. states.
As of June, 171 cases of infection caused by Cryptococcus gatti, a fungus once confined to tropical climates, had been reported in the U.S. That includes at least 100 cases in Oregon and Washington, where officials have been tracking an outbreak since 2004.
But at least 25 cases have been detected in eight states outside of the Northwest since 2009 -- and six of those patients died, according to a new report in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Fisher and his colleagues calculate that fungi have caused more than 80 percent of known disease-driven animal extinctions. (Viruses, by comparison, are responsible for only 1 percent.) The vast majority of these fungi-driven extinctions have happened in the past 20 years.
originally posted by: MichiganSwampBuck
To die by fungus, why not?
originally posted by: _damon
A menace? Id rather consider them as a solution..