It’s time to fear the fungi

Microscopic image of blue bulbs on stalks against violet background.

Enlarge / Computer illustration of Candida fungi (yeast). The most common representatives of Candida fungi are C. albicans and C. auris with similar morphology. C. albicans is found on the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth, genitals, respiratory tract, and digestive tract. The most common disease caused by C. albicans is vaginal candidiasis (thrush). C. auris was first identified in 2009. It causes serious multidrug-resistant infections in hospitalized patients and has high mortality rates. (credit: Kateryna Kon | Science Photo Library | Getty)

There are plenty of things in this world that might keep you up at night. There’s COVID-19, of course, but if you’re anxious like me you could probably rattle off a very long list of additional fears: getting hit by a car, cancer, being poisoned by an ill-advised gas station meal, getting caught in a wildfire, electrocuting yourself plugging your laptop in at a dodgy cafe. But what is likely not high on your list is fungi. Unfortunately, that might be changing.

In 2009, a patient in Japan developed a new fungal infection on their ear. The highly transmissible Candida auris fungus had been previously unknown to science (and resistant to the drugs available to treat it), but within a few years, cases started emerging in Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and South Africa.

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