Focus on Fungi

C. neoformans, Casadevall lab

When we think of the pestilences of humanity, usually bacterial infections like the bubonic plaque, viral infections like the bird flu, or parasitic infections like malaria come to mind. However, there is a neglected fourth member to this quartet of maladies and that is the fungal infection. A new research group, the Manchester Fungal Infection Group (MFIG), aims to focus new light on the forgotten fungi as I highlighted in an OBR Roundtable Review Newsflash last week. 

Fungi are so much more than the tasty mushrooms in our salads or the yeast responsible for our beer. They are even more than the fringe lore of fungi including implications as the cause of cancer and the potential killer of the dinosaurs. I first heard the fungal extinction theory during a seminar given by Dr. Arturo Cassadevall from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He delivered the theory at the end of a talk about the much less fanciful and serious reality of Cryptococcus neoformans. Fungi like C. neoformans and Candida albicans are especially dangerous for immunocompromised individuals but untreated fungal infections in healthy individuals can contribute to chronic illness such as sarcoidosis later in life.   

With the addition of the MFIG to the mycology research sphere, it’s encouraging to see science taking active steps to embrace the often forgotten fungi. 

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