Climate change may be causing a wide-spread, drug-resistant fungus, according to a study published Tuesday in the American Society for Microbiology.
Researchers found that the new fungal disease could be the first to emerge as a result of climate change.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 587 cases of the fungus, Candida auris, in March. The CDC had said it was resistant to antifungal drugs.
It was first discovered in 2009 in Japan and reported first in the U.S. after mid-2015.
To examine the potential impact of climate change on its emergence, researchers compared the thermal susceptibility of Candida auris to its close relatives. The study found that the fungus was able to adapt as the climate warms.
“The argument that we are making based on comparison to other close relative fungi is that as the climate has gotten warmer, some of these organisms, including Candida Auris, have adapted to the higher temperature, and as they adapt, they break through humans’ protective temperatures,” study co-author Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chairman of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN.
Casadevall said climate change could lead to new fungal diseases “we don’t even know about right now.”
The study includes the caveat that while “global warming-related changes in the environment might have played a prominent role” in the fungus emergence, it “is unlikely to explain the whole story.”