Dangerous fungi are spreading across the US as temperatures rise

Dangerous fungal infections are on the rise, and a growing body of research suggests warmer temperatures might be a culprit. From a report: The human body’s average temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit has long been too hot for most fungi to thrive, infectious-disease specialists say. But as temperatures have risen globally, some fungi might be adapting to endure more heat stress, including conditions within the human body, research suggests. Climate change might also be creating conditions for some disease-causing fungi to expand their geographical range, research shows.

“As fungi are exposed to more consistent elevated temperatures, there’s a real possibility that certain fungi that were previously harmless suddenly become potential pathogens,” said Peter Pappas, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Deaths from fungal infections are increasing, due in part to a growing population of people with weakened immune systems who are more vulnerable to severe fungal disease, public health experts said. At least 7,000 people died in the US from fungal infections in 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, up from hundreds of people each year around 1970. There are few effective and nontoxic medications to treat such infections, they said.

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