Nasty Plant Fungus Jumps to Human in a First

Indian man fully recovered after silver leaf infection, which is not fully understood
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 3:12 PM CDT
Nasty Plant Fungus Jumps to Human in a First
A "creamy pasty colony" grows from the pus sample.   (Medical Mycology Case Reports)

Chondrostereum purpureum is a killer in the world of plants. Better known as silver leaf, the fungus infects woody brush, turning leaves silver as it separates their layers, and is a particular pain for rose growers. It also became a major pain for an Indian man, who's become the first known person to be infected by the fungus. In the "first-of-its-kind medical case," the fungus researcher, then 61, sought medical care after suffering three months of cough, throat inflammation, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, lack of appetite, and fatigue, Live Science reports. He then learned an abscess on his windpipe showed signs of fungal growth.

In incubating a sample of pus taken from the abscess, researchers found it grew a "creamy pasty colony" of fungus within days. A genetic analysis revealed the fungus to be Chondrostereum purpureum, which stunned researchers since it had never been found in humans before. "The patient denied having worked with such a plant pathogen but he confirmed that he was working with decaying material and other plant fungi for a long time as part of his research activities," doctors write in the journal Medical Mycology Case Reports, concluding "recurrent exposure to the decaying material may be the cause of this rare infection."

The pus was drained from the abscess and the man took antifungal pills for two months. After two years of monitoring, "the patient was absolutely fine and there is no evidence of recurrence," the report reads. According to Gizmodo, human bodies are warm enough to kill most fungi species. The species that do infect people usually appear in the immunocompromised. But this patient had a strong immune system. Doctors say the case "highlights the potential of environmental plant fungi to cause disease in humans" but add "much work" is needed "in order to explore insights of the mechanisms involved, thus leading to possible recommendations to control and contain these infection," per Vice. (More fungus stories.)

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