"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Fungal infections can really kill — and so they're getting more dangerous.

Millions of persons are tuning in every week to observe the highly anticipated TV adaptation of The Last of Us. The show depicts a post-apocalyptic world where society has been torn apart by the outbreak of a dangerous, mind-controlling fungal infection that turns humans into hostile, malevolent “zombies”.

The fungus that causes the pandemic is predicated on real life. Zombie fungus that infects insects.. Infected insects have little control over their actions because the fungus takes over their nervous system, before eventually exiting their bodies.

Fortunately for us, the likelihood of a fast-spreading fungal pandemic is amazingly low – but that doesn't mean fungus isn't still a priority.

Interesting fungi

The fungal kingdom is large – with an estimated three million different species worldwide.

Most fungi prefer cooler temperatures around 10°C, meaning they're generally unable to grow on the human body's internal temperature of 37°C. This is one reason why most fungal infections in humans continue to exist the skin where it's cold (think athlete's foot and ringworm). This is why only a small variety of fungi could cause infection in humans in comparison with the scale of the fungal kingdom.

But some varieties of fungi thrive in warmer temperatures – and people are those that cause life-threatening infections. Some cocci, reminiscent of yeast, may live in our gut as a part of the microbiome, and may escape into the blood and organs after we turn out to be ailing with serious conditions (reminiscent of cancer).

And as certainly one of the characters in The Last of Us suggests, climate change may present latest problems. Warming global temperatures mean fungi must adapt. This can increase the variety of species that could cause serious infections in humans. There is a few evidence to suggest that that is already happening.

For example, fungus is of great concern, because it is immune to just about all antifungal drugs. It can spread rapidly around hospitals and care homes, causing serious infections in individuals with weakened immune systems.

These infections are a bit like sepsis, where the fungus invades the blood and organs, stopping them from working properly. But what really stands out is its ability to grow at high temperatures – able to resist as much as 42°C.

A fictional version of the real-life cordyceps 'zombie' fungus caused a fungal epidemic in The Last of Us.
Shanfa Teh/Shutterstock

Researchers have theorized concerning the appearance on three continents at concerning the same time Global climate warming could have contributed to its rise. Whether further increases in global temperatures result in more dangerous fungal superbugs stays to be seen.

Fungal infections

But even when a fungus is capable of adapt and grow at warmer temperatures, it's unlikely to spread through the population the way in which a virus can.

Most fungal infections usually are not like other infectious diseases, in that an infected person normally cannot pass it on to others. This is because most fungal infections only affect individuals with certain risk aspects – reminiscent of individuals with Weak immune system.

Fungal infections also don't spread between people due to the way in which the infection starts. Many serious fungal infections begin within the lungs, after inhaling airborne spores. Although we each Inhale hundreds of fungal spores daily.we almost never get sick because our immune system is so efficient at destroying the spores.

If the immune system fails and the spores germinate within the lungs, they'll create several types of fungal cells that cause infection. But there may be Small evidence To suggest that fungi may also produce airborne spores once inside our lungs – which means that while we are able to inhale fungal spores, we cannot exhale them.

Serious fungal infections can spread from the lungs to other organs – including the brain. Fungal brain infections are amongst essentially the most deadly fungal infections. Most of those are attributable to a fungus called cryptococcal meningitis.

around 100,000 people die. No other fungal infection causes more human deaths every year than this disease.

Cryptococcal meningitis occurs when an individual with a compromised immune system – normally attributable to AIDS – inhales spores of the fungus. The fungus migrates from the lungs to the brain – although how this happens isn't well understood. Once within the brain, infected patients experience symptoms reminiscent of severe headache, fever, vision problems and seizures.

While the infection could be treated with antifungal medications, These are expensive That is, those that need them cannot afford them. Fungus may turn out to be immune to these antifungals.

But while there are actually fungal infections that may spread to the brain, we probably don't should worry about zombie fungus adapting to contaminate us prefer it does in The Last of Us – well , at the least not soon.

Our body's internal temperature isn't adapted to grow, neither is it capable of compete with our immune system (which is much more advanced than an insect's) concurrently each our brain and nervous system. can affect It will take 1000's of years of evolution to beat this.

While fungal infections are unlikely to cause a worldwide pandemic or zombie apocalypse, there remains to be reason to be concerned. There have been plenty of people getting sick with a serious fungal infection Constantly growing During the last half century. This is concerning because we're much less capable of treat fungal infections than other varieties of infections because we now have fewer antifungals.

These drugs are also difficult to develop, as fungi share similar biochemistry to our own bodies. The rise of drug-resistant fungi also puts us in danger. It is obvious that more attention must be paid to the potential dangers of the fungus before it is just too late.