Rising global temperatures are predicted to increase fungal diseases in humans, but they could also make those diseases more serious.
Studying the impact of heat stress on fungi, researchers found that higher temperatures led to rapid genetic changes in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus.
Higher temperatures were found to stimulate the fungus’s transposable ‘jumping genes’, accelerating the number of mutations and leading to adaptations in the way the genes are used and regulated. These mobile elements are likely to contribute to adaptation in the environment and during an infection. This could happen even faster because heat stress speeds up the number of mutations occurring. This could lead to higher heat resistance, drug resistance and disease-causing potential, according to the research published in the science journal PNAS.
“This is a fascinating study, which shows how increasing global temperature may affect the fungal evolution in unpredictable directions… One more thing to worry about with global warming,” says Dr Arturo Casadevall, chair of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University.

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