In just 10 years a virus named Candida auris (C. auris) a deadly antibiotic-resistant fungus has became a new global epidemic.
Now, an international team of researchers thinks it knows how the fungus was able to turn deadly so quickly: climate change.
The researchers compared C. auris’s ability to grow at higher temperatures to that of some of its close evolutionary relatives.
They found that while the majority of those relatives couldn’t tolerate the body temperatures of mammals, including humans, C. auris had no such issues.
C. auris emerged independently on three continents simultaneously, with each clade being genetically distinct. “What is unusual about candida auris is that it appeared in three different continents at the same time, and the isolates from India, South Africa, and South America are not related.
Something happened to allow this organism to bubble up and cause disease.
The researchers argue in their study that C. auris adapted this ability in response to higher global temperatures, writing that “it may be the first example of a new fungal disease emerging from climate change.”
They don’t think it will be the only fungus to evolve the ability to harm humans, either.
Global warming will lead to selection of fungal lineages that are more thermally tolerant, such that they can breach the mammalian thermal restriction zone.
Reference- American Society for Microbiology, Futurism, mBio journal