An Indian mushroom hunter has contracted a fungal disease that kills plants in the world’s first case.
The 61-year-old sought help after suffering flu-like symptoms and difficulty swallowing for three months.
Baffled doctors ran tests that showed he had a tracheal abscess.
Surgeons drained the pus and sent samples to a lab, which revealed that he had picked up chondrosarcoma purpurea.
The fungus causes silver leaf disease in plants, which is spread by airborne spores and turns the leaves of the plants metallic before slowly killing them.
Paramedics used the CT images to guide inserting a needle and performing aspiration — removing excess fluid from the abscess. Once the pus was completely drained, collected in a petri dish (pictured) and sent for testing, the man was given two two-month courses of antibiotics.
Initial lab tests to check for the presence of the bacteria gave no indication of disease. But another screening test revealed that the fungus, septum hyphae (pictured), was present
It is believed that he became infected while doing research as a plant mycologist, which involves working directly with molds, yeasts, and mushrooms.
The man, who was not named, had been working with “decomposing materials, mushrooms and various plant fungi for a long time,” according to the doctors who treated him.
They warned that the case “raises serious questions” as it demonstrates that infection can affect “healthy individuals as well as immunocompromised people”.
Writing in the journal Medical fungi case reportsMedics at Apollo Consulting Multispecialty Hospitals said the patient came to the hospital complaining of recurrent coughing, hoarseness and fatigue that he had not been able to change for three months.
Q+A: Everything you need to know about silver lead disease
What is this?
Silver leaf is a fungal disease that affects wood and leaves of some trees, especially plums, apples, apricots and cherries.
It is caused by the common plant pathogen chondrostereum purpureum A progressive and often fatal disease.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society, the fungus’ name ‘silverleaf’ refers to the gradual silvering of leaves on infected plants which then die.
How does it spread?
The disease is usually spread by airborne spores that infect newly exposed wood through cuts in the bark of trees.
The fungus infects the wood through wounds and causes silver to appear in the leaves followed by twig death.
How did it spread to humans?
Scientists believe he contracted silver leaf disease from chondrostereum purpureum while doing research as a plant mycologist.
Medics said the 61-year-old man from Kolkata, who was not named, had been working with “decomposing matter, mushrooms and various plant fungi for a long time”.
Is this cause for concern?
To treat the disease, paramedics used CT images to guide insertion of a needle and perform aspiration—removing excess fluid from the abscess.
Once all of the pus had drained away and was sent for testing, the man was given two courses of antibiotics two months apart.
Two-year follow-up appointments revealed that the man had no complications and there was no evidence of disease recurrence.
But the researchers cautioned that the case “raises serious questions” as it demonstrates that the infection can affect both “healthy individuals and immunocompromised individuals”.
The man, who had no underlying conditions that put him at risk, also had trouble swallowing and a sore throat.
The case report did not disclose the date of the incident.
Upon examination, X-rays of the man’s chest returned to “normal”.
But the CT scan results showed that the man had a tracheal abscess in his neck.
These cysts can be fatal if not detected and treated promptly as they can block the airways and lead to life-threatening infections.
Usually, it is treated with antibiotics and surgery to drain it.
Once all the pus drained and was sent to the WHO Collaborating Center in North India for testing, the man was given two courses of antibiotics for two months.
Researchers there identified the disease as chondrostereum purpureum.
Until now, there was no evidence that a specific type of fungus could infect humans, the researchers said.
Doctors confirmed that the man was free from the disease after two years.
Of the millions of fungi present in the environment, currently only a few hundred are capable of infecting humans and animals.
“Over the past several decades several new pathogenic fungi have emerged,” the scientists said.
They added that worsening global warming would also “open a Pandora’s box of new fungal diseases”.
Rising temperatures are accelerating the number of mutations occurring in fungi that can increase drug resistance and better adapt them to survive in the human body.
It comes as US health officials last week issued a warning about the fungus Candida auris, noting that the disease, which can kill up to 60 percent of people infected with it, has tripled in recent years and has become resistant to several drugs. .
Concerns about the threat posed by the fungus have been highlighted by the popular American TV show The Last of US, which has been watched by tens of millions of people worldwide.
He is seeing people who have been infected with a phage called Cordyceps turn into zombies.
As it is, the fungus can only infect insects, such as ants. But its effects have been described as zombie-like, with Cordyceps growing from its host’s body and controlling its behaviour.