USA: A new fungus can bring death

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A harmful fungus has appeared in the USA: the pathogen Cryptococcus gattii threatens humans and animals alike.

(04/24/2010) A harmful fungus has appeared in the USA: the pathogen "Cryptococcus gattii" threatens humans and animals alike. "Cryptococcus gattii" belongs to the genus of pathogenic yeasts. The fungus is currently spreading in the northwestern United States and Canada. The spores of the pathogen spread through the air, so that the pathogen is absorbed through the breath. Up until now, the fungus was mainly dangerous for people with a weakened immune system, but now a new form of yeast is spreading because the fungus has now mutated into a more aggressive variant (VGIIc).

Infections were found in Vancouver Island from 1999 to 2003. The fungus then migrated to mainland Canada. The result: 218 people fell ill, 19 people died as a result of the disease. Now the disease-causing fungus has apparently spread further and developed aggressive germs. Edmond Byrnes of "Duke University" in North Carolina warns on the American website "PLoS Pathogens": "This new fungus also poses a threat to otherwise healthy people."

Currently 21 people have been infected, five people have already died from the new pathogen. The symptoms of the disease are not clear at first. The patients complain of coughing, difficulty breathing and fever. The incubation period is two months. If the infection is detected early, antibiotic treatment can usually fight the disease. The US federal authorities are currently not taking any countermeasures because the number of cases of infection is still too low. (sb)

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