Deadly Airborne Fungus Spreading Fast: Kills One Out of Four
April 24, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Now that the international swine flu pandemic is over, Americans have another deadly pathogen to be worried about. It’s a virulent airborne fungus that scientists believe may have originated from eucalyptus trees in tropical and subtropical climates. How it arrived in Oregon and other West Coast states is a mystery. Some scientists believe the spreading of a tropical pathogen to North America may be the result of global warming. But whatever the cause, it’s spreading fast throughout the U.S. and Canada, can’t be prevented and has a 25 percent mortality rate.
The deadly fungus is known as VGIIc of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii. And it also infects a variety of animals, including dogs, sheep and dolphins. The fungus is not spread from contact, but instead is floating around in the air waiting to be inhaled.
Lead researcher Edmond Byrnes III of Duke University Medical Center, who conducted a study of the deadly fungus, said “This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people.” “Typically, we more often see this fungal disease associated with transplant recipients and HIV-infected patients, but that is not what we are seeing yet,” said Byrnes.
There is no vaccine for the fungus, but patients can be treated with antifungal medications. But even treatment is not a sure thing. Some sufferers may have to be treated for years and may even require surgery to remove large masses of the fungus that grows within the body.
According to a report by MSNBC, symptoms may not develop until two-months after exposure:
“Symptoms can appear two or more months after exposure. Most people never develop symptoms, but those infected may have a cough lasting weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache related to meningitis, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss.”
The symptoms suffered by infected animals differ from humans. “In animals the symptoms are a runny nose, breathing problems, nervous system problems and raised bumps under the skin.”
The full study of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii is available in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens.