What happened in India’s hospitals with black fungus has investigators worried. Could the next pandemic come from a fungus?
What Are Fungi?
Fungi are a type of microorganism that includes molds, mildews and yeasts. The mold that grows in damp areas of the home is a fungus, and so are the infections responsible for “athlete’s foot” and yellowing toenails.
It’s normal for the body to have balanced levels of certain fungi, and they can even be beneficial for the skin or for digestion. If unhealthy microbes enter the bloodstream, however, they can trigger dangerous infections.
What Fungi May Trigger a Pandemic?
We don’t necessarily have to wait to see the next potential cause of a global pandemic. It may already be here:
- Candida auris: A type of yeast, auris is a major threat. It can hide in tubes and treatment equipment that hasn’t been properly sterilized. Any outbreak leads to immediate lockdown procedures in hospitals because it’s so dangerous.
- Aspergillus: This kind of fungus grows practically everywhere. It’s involved in breaking down vegetation, so it’s abundant in nature. It can appear inside or outside homes in the United States. It’s not normally dangerous, but it can trigger serious lung infections in people with compromised immune systems.
Some infections are caused by fungi that live in soil, such as the fungus responsible for Valley Fever in the Southwestern United States and Taloromyces in Asia. Sporothrix brasiliensis is a type of fungus that can be transmitted to humans via bites and scratches from animals
What Makes Fungal Infections Dangerous?
The risk of C. auris is showing that fungi are a ticking time bomb. Here’s why they’re so dangerous:
- Treatment resistant: C. auris is resistant to common drugs. In other words, if someone gets infected, especially with immune system problems, the risk of dying is high.
- Hard to eradicate: Unlike viruses and bacteria, eliminating fungi is difficult. They can resist common cleaning methods. C. auris is resistant to many ammonium-based disinfectants, for example.
Fast growing: C. auris can live and spread rapidly on plastic, metal, paper, and fabric. It can infiltrate ventilation systems, breathing tubes, nursing home areas and hospital equipment.
What is causing these “new” and scary fungal outbreaks in different parts of the world? In a way, we are.
Modern technological advances have indirectly caused problems with serious fungal infections. For example, many crops are doused in fungicides to enhance production. This can lead to organisms that are heavily resistant to elimination.
Also, global warming may allow fungi to spread to areas where they couldn’t live before. Tropical fungi can now travel further north. Also, transportation means goods carrying fungi can enter the U.S. from Asia, South America, Africa and practically anywhere else.
How To Prep?
HEPA air filtration is one of the only ways to keep mold spores and fungi out of sealed spaces. A sealed, airtight suit may be necessary in the case of a truly mortal global outbreak of mold spores or fungi. As far as current threats are concerned, be careful with anything that weakens your immune system. In the case of surgery at a hospital, you can demand new tubes for any equipment connected to your body.