Climate Change and Fungal Infections:There would be unbelievable changes to human life

climate change and fungal infections


Warmer temperatures may encourage the growth and success of some species of fungus in formerly inhospitable areas. Climate change and fungal infections are two outcomes that might sometimes worsen as a consequence.

Aspergillus and Cryptococcus are only two examples of fungus that may cause respiratory infections and thrive in warm, humid conditions. The number of persons infected by these fungus and the severity of their illnesses may grow as global temperatures rise.

The spread and behavior of fungal species that cause plant diseases may potentially affect crop availability and quality as a consequence of rising temperatures.As a result, it’s possible for health and nutrition to be affected indirectly.

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Numerous little creatures in the world take great pleasure in devouring human beings.It’s common knowledge that bacteria and viruses are the bad guys behind debilitating global pandemics and annoying illnesses. However, we haven’t had to deal nearly as much with fungal illnesses.
People with compromised immune systems are particularly vulnerable to deadly fungal pathogens including candida,aspergillus, cryptococcus, and many more. Healthy individuals have often not had to worry about hazardous fungus since most of them cannot survive in the heat of human bodies.

However, that might soon alter.

Researchers at Duke University found that when exposed to higher temperatures, the potentially lethal fungus Cryptococcus deneoformans increased its adaptive responses.This increases the number of genetic modifications it possesses, some of which may enhance its heat tolerance and others of which may increase its propensity to transmit disease.

In particular, the fungus’ transposable elements, also called jumping genes, become more active at higher temperatures, altering the way in which the fungus’ genes are used and regulated.The findings were published on January 20 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Asiya Gusa, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine, says, “These mobile elements are likely to contribute to adaptation in the environment and during an infection.” Heat stress is known to hasten the onset of mutations, so this might happen much sooner than usual.

Fans of the popular HBO series “The Last of Us,” in which a heat-adapted fungus builds a dystopian hellscape by enslaving humans and turning them into zombies, may find this scenario similar. After seeing the pilot episode, Gusa, who will soon become an assistant professor at Duke University, said, “That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about minus the zombie part.”

Since we don’t pass fungi from person to person, Gusa argues, we can’t consider them infectious diseases in the traditional sense. However, spores may be found in the air. Fungus spores exist in the air we breathe, yet our immune systems can neutralize them.

Your present stock of Covid face masks should be sufficient to stop fungal spores due to their larger size compared to virus spores. That plus your own heat will have to do.

According to Gusa, the rise in fungal diseases may be largely attributed to the rise in the number of people who have impaired immune systems or underlying medical conditions. However, pathogenic fungi may also be adapting to the warmer temperatures.

While working with Professor Sue Jinks-Robertson, Gusa oversaw studies on three transposable elements that were very active in C. deneoformans during periods of heat stress. But she said there were at least 25 additional transposable elements in that species waiting to be activated.

Using “long-read” DNA sequencing, the researchers were able to detect mutations that could have been missed otherwise (Gusa).

What is DNA sequencing?

a)DNA extractionThe DNA is extracted from the source material (e.g., blood, tissue, saliva) using various methods such as salting out or column purification.
b)Library preparationThe DNA is fragmented into smaller pieces and adapters are added to the ends of the fragments. This step can be done using various methods such as sonication or enzymatic fragmentation.
c)PCR amplificationThe DNA fragments are amplified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to create multiple copies of the same fragment, which can increase the signal for sequencing.
d)SequencingThe DNA fragments are sequenced using various technologies such as Sanger sequencing or next-generation sequencing (NGS), which includes methods like Illumina sequencing, 454 sequencing, and Ion Torrent sequencing.
5. Data analysisThe raw sequencing data is processed and analyzed to generate the final DNA sequence, which can involve base-calling, alignment to a reference genome, and variant calling.
Using computer analysis, scientists were able to create a map of transposons and follow their movements. These previously unseen movements are now observable because of advances in our sensors. Heat stress sped up the mutation process. After 800 generations of growth in laboratory medium, the frequency of transposon mutations was five times higher in fungi grown at body temperature (37 degrees Celsius).

T1, a transposable element, showed a preference for inserting itself in between coding genes, which may affect gene regulation. Tcn12 elements often insert themselves into gene sequences, changing their function and perhaps leading to drug resistance. According to Gusa, the extent to which a third kind,Cnl1, affects telomere sequences at chromosomal ends is unclear.

Furthermore, fungi living in mice seemed to mobilize transposable elements at a greater rate than fungi cultivated in lab settings. Upon infection of the mouse, Gusa observed the activation of all three transposable elements within the genome of the fungus. The researchers think that the transposons could become even more active due to the pressures and immunological responses that come with living in an animal.

According to the head of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University, this study is intriguing as it demonstrates how the increase in global temperatures could impact the evolution of fungi in unforeseeable ways. The phenomenon of global warming has the potential to enhance the mobility of transposons in soil fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans. This,in turn,may result in genetic alterations that can augment virulence and resistance to medicine. The rise in average global temperatures is a new cause for alarm.

The Joseph Heitman lab at the medical school and the Paul Magwene lab in Trinity Arts & Sciences at Duke were both helpful to Gusa’s study because of their shared interest in fungi.

Microorganisms from people who have had recurring fungal infections will be studied in the next step of this inquiry. We understand these diseases may return and may have undergone genetic changes.

Gusa declared that dangerous fungi needed to be taken more seriously. Changes in response to stress may help pathogenic fungi adapt to their environment or an infection. It’s possible that things are moving faster than we expected.

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