Man infected with deadly plant fungus in world-first case
A man in India caught a plant fungal disease in a world-first case of human infection.
Medics at the Consultant Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals in India wrote in the journal Medical Mycology Case Reports that the 61-year-old patient came to the hospital with complaints of a recurring couch, hoarseness of voice, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat and fatigue for three months.
The man, who wasn’t named and is a mushroom hunter, had no underlying health conditions that put him at risk, and it’s unclear when the incident occurred.
Doctors performed an X-ray and CT scans on the man. The X-ray on the chest came back “normal,” but the CT scan results showed a paratracheal abscess in his neck.
Paratracheal abscesses can block airways and lead to life-threatening infections, which can be deadly if not caught and treated quickly.
Fungal infection is treated with medication as well as anti-fungal therapy and surgical drainage of the pus. Doctors also recommend the prevention of exposure and reversal of risk factors.
The pus was completely removed from the man and sent to the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborating center in northern India for testing. He was then given two anti-fungal medications to take for two months.
Doctors diagnosed the man with Chondrostereum purpureum, a plant fungus that causes silver leaf disease in plants.
Silver leaf infects the wood and leaves of some trees, causing them to turn a silvery gray, according to the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources. It’s spread by airborne spores.
Researchers believe the man caught the disease while doing research for his job as a plant mycologist. He had been working with “decaying material, mushrooms and various plant fungi for a long time.”
Researchers shared that until this case, there has been no evidence that humans could be infected by this particular fungus.
Of all the millions of fungi, currently, just a few hundred can affect humans and animals as well as plants.
“Over the past several decades multiple new pathogenic fungi have emerged,” researchers wrote in the study. “The worsening of global warming and other civilization activities opens Pandora’s Box for newer fungal diseases.”
Rising temperatures can expedite the number of mutations that occur in fungi, increasing drug resistants and adapting them to survive in humans.
Doctors confirmed that after two years of follow-up appointments, the man had suffered no complications and was free of the disease. There was also no evidence that showed the disease recurring.
The first-of-its-kind case “raises serious questions” as it shows the fungal infection can affect both “healthy as well as immunocompromised individuals.”