Researchers believe this is the first case of its kind in the world.
Chondrostereum purpureum is a silver leaf disease that affects flora, most often in rose species.
It is spread by airborne spores and can often be fatal.
Although it was not known that the virus could infect humans in any way, Indian medics have reported what they believe to be the first case.
A 61-year old man presented to Consultant Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals, Kolkata. He had been suffering from symptoms such as a cough, fatigue and difficulty swallowing for three months.
The man was not at high risk for fungal infections known as jumping species. He had no prior history of illness.
He was a plant mycologist and worked with mushrooms as well as other plant fungi.
The fungal infection was discovered
The hospital performed scans and found that the infection had partially blocked the man’s airway.
The pus was removed by doctors and the man was given daily antifungal medication for two months.
He is now “absolutely fine” two years later and the infection has not returned.
The medics who treated him wrote in Medical Mycology Case Reports that the case raised serious questions about the potential for plant pathogens to infect healthy people and animals.
They stated that fungi could establish themselves as human pathogens if they were able to escape the phagocytosis pathway.
How can fungi infect humans?
There are millions of fungi species, but we know only about 150,000.
Few people can be infected by fungus because they can tolerate our 37C body temperature. Indian medics also successfully cultured the fungus in a laboratory at that heat.
People with compromised immune systems are more likely to be affected by fungi than those without.
Sky News was told by Professor Elaine Bignell of the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology that the Kalkuta man might have a genetic immunodeficiency.
She stated that the patient did not have any obvious risk factors of fungal disease, which is what we would expect.
“But, there are still questions about his predisposition and this organism’s ability to colonize the airwaves.
“We can never rule out any unknown condition” – he clearly studied the fungus in an experimental or botanical setting. It is possible that he was exposed to an extremely high number of spores.
Professor Bignell stated that there is no reason to be alarm but said: “It’s a new kid on our block – we don’t know much about them.”
Are we concerned?
As the planet heats up from climate change, it has been feared that unknown and known fungi will emerge as potential threats. They are learning to survive on hotter planets.
Professor Bignell stated that mycologists speak about the “possibility of pathogens waiting” in their field. These are organisms that can cause disease in people if they are present in the environment.
The World Health Organization (WHO ) listed 19 items it fears could pose a threat to the public’s health.
The WHO reported an “important” increase in fungal infections as a result of the COVID pandemic.
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Fungi have been shown to infect humans
One such fungus was identified by the US authorities earlier this month. It is a type yeast called Candida auris, or C. auris and has been rapidly spreading through healthcare facilities.
Candida species are responsible for skin rashes and thrush, as well as being one of the most common causes of bloodstream infections in intensive care patients.
Cryptococcosis neoformans, another fungus that has been known to affect humans, infects the lungs as well as the brain and can cause pneumonia and meningitis for immunosuppressed patients.
It causes the death of more than 100,000 people each year in sub-Saharan Africa.
Aspergillus fumigatus is a common mold that can cause chronic and acute lung diseases. It can also be fatal.