Global Warming and Fungal Diseases – Fungi

by Vincent Racaniello, PhD

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    00:02 We think that the increased fungal diseases in human is a consequence of global warming.

    00:10 As I've just told you fungi are major pathogens of plants and insects and amphibians, but there are not a lot of fungal diseases of human. However this is changing, at the end of the 20th century the number of human fungal diseases is going up. This may be partly a consequence of medical interventions, immunosuppressant for example, we're doing many, many more organ transplants than we ever did before, and to do that, to make those successful, we have to use immunosuppressive drugs. So, one reason for this increase is probably the increase in transplantation. Another reason is probably the onset of the AIDS pandemics in the 1980s, so this is immunosuppressing people and causing fungal infections where they wouldn't have had an infection before. But another change probably has to do with the climate.

    01:03 So humans of course are warm-blooded, endothermy refers to that fact. Fungi don't like to grow at the temperatures of a human body and we think that's part of the reason why human fungal infections are so infrequent. So most of our resistance comes from our immune system, and the fact that our temperature is too high for fungi. But as you probably know we're in a period of global climate change at the moment. Here is a graph showing the temperature of the earth, the mean temperature of the earth for many, many, many years, up to the present. So the main graph covers thousands of years and then the inset shows you 0 to 2000 A.D. So you can see that around 12 or 1300, there was an increase in temperature of a few degrees, it then went down again and then in the 1990s the temperature started rising again and that's the current status of our climate change. So the temperature has gone up from about twelve and a half degree average to over 14°. We think this characteristic is increasing human fungal diseases, selecting for fungi that can grow at higher temperatures.

    02:19 So just think, the fungi grow in most parts of the world, they're usually at the bottom of the forest where it's cooler, but overall the temperature is rising, so only the fungi that can grow at the high temperatures will survive, so we're selected for mutant fungi that can grow at higher temperatures and that is a fungus that will then invade humans.

    02:39 So this is the theory at the moment that somehow climate changes resulting in more fungal infections of humans.

    02:46 So I hope that by listening to this lecture on fungi, you've learned about the two general types of fungi, the yeast and the filamentous fungi. I hope you understand how yeasts reproduce and what we use them for, all the wonderful things we can make with yeasts. I hope you're familiar with the structure of filamentous fungi and what is a mycelium and a mushroom for example. And finally you should know some of the diseases associated with fungi.

    03:17 So you know they say in the world, there are two kinds of people, there are mushroom pickers and there are mushroom kickers, so I hope after this you're a mushroom picker.

    03:26 Thank you, see you next time.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Global Warming and Fungal Diseases – Fungi by Vincent Racaniello, PhD is from the course Microbiology: Introduction.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Alternating alpha chains that create a semi-permeable mesh
    2. A phospholipid bilayer that forms a cell membrane
    3. A layer of chitin, a sugar polymer
    4. A layer of beta-glucans
    5. A layer of mannoproteins
    1. Organ transplant recipients
    2. Professional athletes
    3. People who work with children
    4. Swimmers
    5. Patients on anticoagulants
    1. Basidiospores and ascospores
    2. Sporoblasts and sporoclasts
    3. Candida spores and neospores
    4. Basidiospores and neospores
    5. Sporoclasts and ascospores
    1. Giardia
    2. Fusarium
    3. Aspergillosis
    4. Histoplasmosis
    5. Cryptococcal Meningitis
    1. Increased use of immunosuppressant therapy
    2. Increased fungal resistance to fungicidal medication
    3. Decreased immunity to fungal pathogens
    4. Increased genetic variability amoung fungi

    Author of lecture Global Warming and Fungal Diseases – Fungi

     Vincent Racaniello, PhD

    Vincent Racaniello, PhD

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