Berkeley Public Health Launches Large Study of Impact of Climate Change and Social Inequality on Deadly Fungal Infections

When most people think of fungi, they think of backyard mushrooms, delicious morels on gourmet menus, and the yeast used to make beer. But they also contain some of the deadliest pathogens that affect vulnerable populations worldwide.

Fungal pathogens cause infections in more than 1 billion people each year and kill an estimated 1.6 million people. Pathogenic fungi are a growing concern as new pathogens, the surge in antifungal resistance, and climate change threaten to increase infections and deaths from fungal diseases in the coming decades.

Currently, a team of researchers from multiple institutions led by a professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health Justin LemaiAs director of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, he uses big data to understand where fungal diseases occur across the United States and how climate change might affect their spread. We have started a large-scale study using This research has been funded by: $3.9 million, 5-year grant This study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be important in understanding this emerging threat to the health of high-risk groups in the coming decades.

many fungal pathogens – etc. Coccidioides, Histoplasmaand Aspergillus—It lives in environments such as soil and rotting leaves. People become infected by breathing in fungal spores or coming into contact with fungal filaments called hyphae.

Researchers know that fungal diseases respond to changes in weather and climate. Valley fever, for example, is spread by airborne dust blowing from desert soils. coccidioides pathogen and it Sensitive to drought and temperature changes in California and other western states.Similarly, histoplasmosis – a disease caused by a pathogen Histoplasma Commonly found in bird and bat droppings, it responds to changes in light, humidity and temperature. coccidioides and Histoplasma It usually causes flu- and pneumonia-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever and cough. Still, when the fungus spreads from the lungs to other organs, it can cause severe and fatal “disseminated” infections.

“The risk of fungal diseases is rising, and climate change may be playing a role, but to predict how climate change will impact these diseases in the years to come, we are working to improve There is a desperate need for refined data and new analytical approaches,” said Dr. Lemais. “By identifying how changes in the environment are driving changes in fungal diseases, we can anticipate and respond to future risks, raise awareness among physicians and patients, and develop the best strategies for responding to the impacts of climate change.” We will be able to ensure that protective measures are provided to vulnerable people.”

Some fungal pathogens infect people during extreme weather events such as floods and hurricanes. for example, Mucor fungi People who experience trauma during extreme weather events can develop serious skin and wound infections. As storm surges and other weather extremes increase in intensity and frequency, the incidence of such infections may also increase.

“To estimate how these diseases will spread in the future, we can look at how these diseases have responded to extreme weather events in the past, and then use models to identify changes and anomalies in climate conditions.” We need to investigate how we react to the frequency of events, the planet warms,” ​​said Lume.

Researchers analyzed more than 1 billion electronic medical records collected from nearly 100 million patients across the United States to explore areas of fungal disease outbreaks and to identify fungal infections among vulnerable populations. We plan to identify factors that lead to disparities in disease incidence and severity, and to investigate why people are socially and economically disadvantaged. People face greater risks.

“We are working to better understand how communities can adapt to the risks of fungal diseases and build resilience to help them understand how housing quality, social resilience, and FEMA support can help them during natural disasters.” We’ll see if it can protect against fungal outbreaks,” Lume said. “Additionally, disparities in quality and timeliness of care, population variability in exposure to fungal pathogens, differences in susceptibility to infections and serious illness, pre-existing conditions, immunosuppressive treatment and drug use, etc. I need to know.”

The Berkeley team includes experts in fungal biology, epidemiology and biostatistics, as well as experts with expertise in characterizing climatic factors in infectious diseases. Berkeley researchers develop a data-adapted statistical model and counterfactual to estimate the proportion of fungal disease burden attributed to human-made climate change, predicting the distribution of fungal disease in 30-50 years intend to do something. Partner institution collaborators bring expertise in electronic medical record system design and functionality, as well as medical mycology.

“Analyzing this astonishingly large data set and integrating it with socioeconomic and climatic information will help us understand how and why the risk of fungal disease is changing, and how fungal disease occurs. Or to help identify areas at particularly high risk of exacerbation and help healthcare workers “to better predict, detect and prevent future infections,” Remais said.

The research consortium includes Berkeley Public Health collaborators Ellen Eisen of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Alan Hubbard of the Department of Biostatistics, and Joseph Lunard of the Department of Epidemiology, as well as the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Includes a team of Children’s Mercy. Kansas City Hospital. Other project collaborators include colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, UCLA, the University of Iowa, Duke University, the University of Maryland, Kaiser Permanente, and the Division of Mycosis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study will be supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fundraising began on his July 1, 2023.

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