The fungus known as Chondrostereum Purpureum is responsible for a serious disease that affects many plants. The so-called silver leaf disease affects many valuable species, such as pear trees, roses, peaches and rhododendrons. The fungus attacks the leaves and branches of the plant. If the disease is not treated quickly, it may lead to the death of the plant.
It seems that only plants can fall victim to fungi. However, it turns out that purple lace is more versatile than we thought.
Researchers have just described the first human case of a fungal plant disease recorded in the annals of medicine. Everything indicates that the 61-year-old Indian mycologist contracted silver leaf disease. I ended up getting a serious throat infection. This is one of the few cases in which the same pathogen is able to infect organisms as diverse as mammals and plants.
A patient came to a medical center in eastern India complaining of fatigue, difficulty swallowing, coughing, and hoarseness. A CT scan of the neck revealed a pus-filled abscess next to the trachea.
Laboratory tests showed no bacteria of concern in his system. However, tests revealed the presence of long, root-like fibers in the mushroom.
Fungal diseases are common in humans, although of the millions of known species, only a few hundred are capable of causing serious harm to us. It is relatively common for foot fungus and athlete’s thrush to attack people, causing uncomfortable irritation.
Sometimes, especially in people with weakened immune systems, fungi that normally feed on decaying plants, such as Aspergillus, can infect deeper parts of our bodies. However, this particular infection was different from any known infection. This prompted specialists to seek advice from the WHO Mycological Reference and Research Centre, which identified the unlikely suspect based on its DNA.
The patient, although a mycologist, could not recall whether he had recently worked with this particular species. However, during fieldwork, he had frequent contact with decaying and fungal-infected plants, which may explain the source of the infection. The patient had a well-functioning immune system, had no chronic diseases, and was not taking immunosuppressive medications. This makes the whole situation more mysterious.
In order for a pathogen to nest in a host and begin multiplying, it must be well prepared. Bacteria and fungi must not only learn how to use the host’s body as a food source, but above all, they must be able to defend themselves against massive attacks from the immune system. This makes it very rare for a pathogen well adapted to life in one type of host to succeed in jumping into the organism of a creature from a completely different branch of the tree of life.
“The emergence of human pathogens of plant origin has very important implications in the context of the emergence of new infectious diseases,” the study authors wrote in the report. Scientists have long warned that new zoonotic diseases have the potential to cause deadly epidemics. However, to date, the possibility of a new disease being transmitted to humans from plants has rarely been considered.
Everything indicates that such cases are extremely rare, but the case of the Indian mycologist shows that researchers should look into this possibility more closely than before. Fungal diseases can be especially dangerous. The similarities in the biochemistry of fungi and animals make designing appropriate vaccines and treatments that can prevent or control infections a real challenge.
In this particular case, the illness ended well. Simple surgical intervention and administration of antifungal medication for two months solved the problem. Two years after infection, follow-up examinations showed no signs of recurrence.
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