“Rare Case of Silver Leaf Disease Found in Human Throat Raises Concerns about Cross-Kingdom Pathogens”
A 61-year-old Indian mycologist has become the first reported case of a human contracting the silver leaf disease, a fungal infection that typically affects botanicals such as pears, roses, and rhododendron. This unprecedented case is causing concern among researchers as it suggests the possibility of pathogens crossing entire kingdoms in the tree of life.
The patient presented with symptoms including a cough, hoarse voice, fatigue, and difficulty swallowing. Upon performing a CT X-ray scan, medical professionals discovered a pus-filled abscess near the patient’s trachea. Initial lab tests could not find any concerning bacteria, but a special staining technique for fungi revealed the presence of hyphae, long root-like filaments.
While fungal infections in humans are not uncommon, only a few hundred species out of the millions known have the ability to cause harm. Common fungal infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and thrush are often limited to the skin. However, in individuals with compromised immune systems, fungi that typically feed on decaying vegetation can infect deeper parts of the body.
This particular infection presented different characteristics, prompting medical specialists to seek assistance from a World Health Organization fungi reference and research center. Through DNA analysis, they identified the unlikely suspect as the Chondrosterium purple fungus, the same species responsible for silver leaf disease in plants.
The patient, who himself is a mycologist, could not recall having recently worked with this particular species. However, his field work involved contact with decaying material and plant fungi, which could potentially explain the source of his infection.
The fact that the patient appeared to have a fully functioning immune system with no known chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken the immune system makes this case even more perplexing and concerning. The authors of the study emphasized the importance of understanding cross-kingdom pathogens and their potential plant reservoirs in the emergence of infectious diseases.
While the emergence of bacterial superbugs and novel viruses from animal populations often grab headlines, plant diseases rarely receive the same level of attention. This unique case of a fungi infection in a human highlights the need for further research and attention to this area. Fungi, in particular, pose a significant risk, as similarities in fungal and animal biochemistry make it challenging to design effective vaccines and therapies.
Fortunately, in this case, the patient’s ulcer was regularly drained and treated with antifungal agents, resulting in a successful recovery. After two years of follow-up check-ups, there have been no signs of a recurrence.
This research, detailing the extraordinary case, was published in Medical Mycology Case Reports. While the reasons behind this chance infection remain unknown, the case serves as a reminder to remain vigilant regarding the potential for cross-kingdom pathogens and the emergence of infectious diseases.