What happened in ”The Last Of Us” could happen in the world, scientists warn

What happened in ''The Last Of Us'' could happen in the world, scientists warn

Lethal fungi similar to that in The Last Of Us could be unleashed amidst the growing climate crisis, scientists in Spain have warned.

Researchers in the country say several new and deadly diseases could emerge as the planet warms due to human activity, including a member of the Candida family of fungi. If this fungi infects humans who have weak immune systems – the mortality rate can shoot to up to 60 per cent. Candida auris is a hybrid fungus coming from the ocean which moved to humans in 2009.

Scientists believe it could be the first pathogen brought about by climate change, spreading easily through hospitals. The infection causes fever, chills and extreme tiredness, sending blood pressure and heart rate soaring.

It’s one of several lethal infections researchers have highlighted as climate change becomes a growing human crisis.

The scientists say rising temperatures and changes to ecosystems such as the sea, as well as humans’ growing use of fungicides and antibiotics, could allow mutant organisms to emerge.

In the study published in the Nature Communications journal, Prof Tony Galbadon said his colleagues had “spent years” trying to answer the question of “what makes some species pathogenic for humans”, but not others. Now his team believes they may have, in part, answered the question.

“Our results show that hybridisation—a process that has received little attention so far— allows the rapid acquisition of properties that allow human infection,” he said. “Therefore, in fungi, this process could be a shortcut to conquer a species like ours,” he adds.

This, the researchers said, was the exact plot or HBO Max hit miniseries The Last of Us, “where a fungus quickly acquires an enormous capacity for infection, transmission, and virulence” which the team described as “a perfect cocktail” for “decimat[ing] humanity in a short time”.

Candida orthopsilosis meanwhile, which appears closely related to Candida auris, was already spreading through US medical facilities, the report found. The scientists looked at nine yeast samples in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Qatar which had been isolated from the marine environment, concluding that some fungi may have previously undergone adaptations that give them an advantage over their parental strains.

Dr. Valentina del Olmo, another of the scientists on the study, said: “We saw that the optimal temperature at which strains of C. orthopsilosis grow is 35°C and that they could survive up to much higher temperatures. This observation is worrying because their tolerance surpasses the thermal barrier of mammals, which until now had acted as a protective shield, and paves the way for infecting humans.”

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