Candida auris, a fungus resistant to drugs, was first discovered in Japan in 2009. Ten years later, it has been reported to have spread in more than 30 countries, including the United States.
Scientists have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how it spread around the globe. Now, they think they know why.
A new study published in the journal mBio says that climate change is responsible for the global rise of C. auris. The authors added that the fungal disease might be the first to emerge due to the climate crisis.
A Fungus That Adapts To The Heat
To investigate, the researchers compared the thermal suceptibility of C. auris to its closest relatives. They found that the fungus was able to adapt and grow at higher temperatures.
"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," Arturo Casadevall, chairman of molecular microbiology and immunology at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the first author of the study, suggested to CNN.
Fungal infections are relatively rare to humans. Fungi cannot grow because of the body's temperature range.
Out of millions of species of fungi, only a few hundred can cause a disease in humans. However, the rising global temperature makes new fungal diseases a serious threat to public health.
"Global warming may lead to new fungal diseases that we don't even know about right now," added Casadevall.
The study also theorizes that C. auris was an environmental fungus that may have an immediate host such as a seabird before it was passed on to humans.
C. auris In The United States
C. auris was first reported in the United States in 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 685 cases of the fungus has been confirmed in 12 states as of May 2019.
C. auris causes bloodstream, wound, and ear infections. Infections can occur in anyone, from preterm infants to the elderly. The fungus can be spread through the use of medical equipment in hospital and nursing homes.