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“Zombie ant fungus” in humans? Some genuine and some absurd fungal fears are sparked by climate change

Certain fungi are learning how to survive at temperatures that are greater than they typically prefer as the climate warms the earth and temperatures rise. the zombie threat.

Some actual fungi, like one that transforms ants into zombies, are already horrifying. Could it soon evolve into humans as a result of global warming? The popular HBO program “The Last of Us” has such as narrative.

A new wave of human fungal illnesses could be brought on by climate change, according to scientists, who are less concerned about that specific scenario.

Dr. Thomas Chiller, director of the Mycotic Disease Section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speculated that perhaps it gets simpler for them to adapt to even greater temperatures and develop into pathogens in humans.

Again, there is no threat that the zombie apocalypse will soon arrive due to climate change. But technology might also be enabled the emergence of new diseases and bring some unpleasant, old ailments to light.

What you should know about fungus and climate change is as follows:

Could the post-apocalyptic world of “The Last of Us” actually occur?

No, according to professionals.

The popular TV series “The Last of Us,” which is based on the similarly well-liked video game “The Last of Us,” takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting. There, a newly-mutated fungus that spreads by bites and turns the majority of humans into zombies and kills and controls its host’s body has engulfed humanity. These creatures, referred to as “infected” in the show, have porous growths covering them, can run and are difficult to kill.

The speed with which the fungus takes over the Earth, say, experts, is perhaps the most implausible aspect of the show. According to Matthew Kasson, a specialist on the interactions between fungi and insects at West Virginia University, it would take much longer than the two decades shown in the television show during which the world descended into draconian chaos.

He claimed that it would require millions of millions of years of optimization throughout evolutionary history.

What exactly are fungi?

Molds, yeasts, and mushrooms are among the spore-producing, organic matter-eating organisms known as fungi. Since they break down dead plants and animals so they can reintegrate into the soil food web, they are vital to the ecology. Moreover, they are utilized to create some medicines, beer, and bread.

In general, fungi are demonized when we discuss them because of the unpleasant things they are capable of. Yet every day they’re also accomplishing tremendous things covertly, Kasson remarked.

Does the threat of fungus infections increase with climate change?

Researchers have shown that in some cases, fungal diseases are getting worse as a result of climate change because some fungi are adapting to warmer temperatures.

Fungi prefer chilly, damp environments: Because of this, instead of warm-blooded animals, they typically infect ants and cicadas.

That might be altering: George Thompson, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Davis, stated that fungi are starting to adapt to grow at mammalian body temperatures.

Normal human body temperatures shield us from: According to Chiller, there are up to 5 million different fungus species, but only a small number of these cause infections in people.

Crucial quotation: “The threshold that shields humans from them is dropped as the environment heats and these species adapt and can live at greater temperatures,” said Thompson.

Which human fungi diseases have the potential to worsen?

As temperatures have risen over the past few decades, some fungal infections that may infect people have either been expanding their range or becoming more prevalent.

Auricular Candida: Before 2009, this fungus was uncommon in humans. According to Thompson, “it independently evolved at four locations around the world with three unrelated strains.” “The prevailing theory is that it’s adjusting to a warmer environment.” In medical facilities, it leads to blood infections.

The Brazilian sporothrix: This newly discovered fungus infection originally appeared in Brazil and is currently spreading throughout South America. Cats acquire it through their surroundings and grow open sores on their faces, paws, and other body parts. The cat would simply shake its head, and the spores would enter and infect the veterinarian’s eyes and even skin, according to Chiller. What’s worrying is that this sort of fungus previously couldn’t infect others in its spore form. “What’s this? Right now, “said he.

Coccidioides: In those who are vulnerable, this can result in Valley Fever, a crippling illness. It was previously believed that it could only exist in the arid Southwest and California, but it is now showing up as far north as Washington state.

Histoplasmosis: Although it is present around the world, this fungus is most common in the central and eastern United States, particularly in regions near the Ohio and Mississippi River Basin.

Blastomycosis: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Indiana are among the northeastern states that frequently have them. According to some experts, climate change in some regions of North America may result in drier summers and wetter winters, which may be ideal for its dissemination.

What is the “zombie ant fungus” that served as the basis for “The Last of Us”?

The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus is briefly referenced in “The Last of Us.” You can call it the zombie ant fungus, but its correct pronunciation is O-fio-cord-eh-septs Un-i-lat-er-al-is.

The ant is invaded by a spore, which causes it to stop what it’s doing and climb to a high perch using a combination of chemical and physical manipulation. Finally, according to Kasson, it compels the ant to engage in a “death grip, biting down on a leaf or a twig so it’s glued to that area.”

The host is then killed and used by the fungus to propagate. The fungus grows from the body, typically the head, and shoots forth spores that fall to the ground and infect the unwary ants below.

Is the “zombie ant fungus” the worst possible thing? regrettably, absolutely.

Massospora cicada, a fungus that affects 13- and 17-year cicadas and exhibits symptoms similar to those of amphetamine, is another zombie fungus. This one is even worse in its unique manner.

Cicadas are infected by the fungus, which then consumes their abdomen and genitalia and replaces them with a plug of the same fungus that is covered in spores. The males then experience hypersexualization as a result.

When it distributes a disease that is sexually transmissible through the powder on its genitalia, the cicada will fly around and attempt to mate, according to Kasson. Attracting other males to mate with them, also alters the behavior of the males, causing them to pose as females.

Even after years of research, he still has no idea how the fungus manages to produce the compound that offers colonized cicadas “greater stamina and attention span” while still consuming them from the inside.

When you’re high, you don’t have to worry about fungus eating your stomach, he said.

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