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Member Research and Reports

Johns Hopkins: Is Deadly Candida Auris a Product of Global Warming?

A drug-resistant fungus species called Candida auris, which was first identified ten years ago and has since caused hundreds of deadly outbreaks in hospitals around the world, may have become a human pathogen in part due to global warming, according to three scientists led by a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

C. auris was first isolated from the infected ear of an elderly patient in Japan in 2009, and within a few years caused hospital outbreaks in many different parts of the world. Between 30 and 60 percent of patients diagnosed with invasive C. auris infection have died. C. auris’s sudden emergence as a human-infecting pathogen is as mysterious as it is alarming, for it happened simultaneously among several distinct families or “clades” of this fungus that exist separately on different continents.

The scientists, in their paper published July 23 in the journal mBio, suggest that this global transformation of C. auris into a deadly pathogen may be due to global warming, which could have forced C. auris clades around the world to adapt to higher temperatures. That adaptation would have made it easier for this microbe to infect humans, whose relatively warm core temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) normally serves as a “thermal barrier” against fungal invasion.

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, the Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair of the Bloomberg School’s W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, is the paper’s lead author.

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