You May Have Drug-Resistant Fungus in Your Lungs

Aspergillus is only problematic for some people, but it's growing increasingly drug resistant
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2022 7:13 AM CDT
You May Have Drug-Resistant Fungus in Your Lungs
A 3D illustration of microscopic Aspergillus fungi.   (Getty Images / Artur Plawgo)

"You live on Earth and breathe, you’re going to get Aspergillus in your lungs," a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham tells NBC News. On its face, that's not concerning: Most of us inhale the fungus, whose spores are found in dirt (gardening is a common way to be exposed to them), decaying plant life, and damp homes without any issues. The fungus is much more problematic for people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung conditions, because as NBC News explains, Aspergillus and and the fungus Candida auris (which most often infects people in hospitals) are growing increasingly resistant to the drugs we use to treat them—and the infections are occurring with increasing frequency.

The CDC saw Candida auris infections jump from 171 in 2017 to 1,420 in 2021; the mortality rate is between 30% and 60%. At this point, one common drug that was used to treat it is effective in only 10% of cases. As for what's causing the antifungal resistance, the fungicides used in farming are one factor. They have a similar chemical makeup to antifungal drugs, so as mold strains develop resistance to the fungicides, they can grow resistant to the medications, too. Experts say warming temps could be behind the rise of the fungal infections (Candida auris was first detected in humans in 2009), causing some to worry that climate change could ultimately make healthy people susceptible to the infections. (Read the full article for the story of one patient who is down to her last option.)

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