Fungi Could Easily ‘Conquer’ Humans In ‘Last Of Us’-Style Nightmare, Researchers Warn


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Research published in late October details how rising temperatures could cause an outbreak of fungal disease not-so-dissimilar to that depicted in HBO’s “The Last Of Us.”

While concerns have been raised about the theoretical implications of widespread fungal infections, a study from the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) and Barcelona’s Supercomputing Center identified a clear adaptation process used by microorganisms to infect the human body.

Candida orthopsilosis is a hybrid microorganism originating from two other parental marine fungi, according to the research published in the journal Nature Communications. This hybridization causes certain fungi to be both capable of infecting a human host and virulence, posing a significant threat to global health.

“We have spent years trying to answer the question of what makes some species pathogenic for humans and others, such as those we have in our microbiome, not,” study author Dr. Toni Gabaldón said in a press release accompanying the research. “Our results show that hybridization — a process that has received little attention so far — allows the rapid acquisition of properties that allow human infection. Therefore, in fungi, this process could be a shortcut to conquer a species like ours.”

Estimates suggest almost a million different species of fungi exist in temperate or low temperatures, and are capable of infecting all sorts of animals, the press release noted. Outbreaks of such diseases have risen 7% a year since the 1980s. (RELATED: Worm Turns Victims Into Zombies By Stealing Their DNA)

A sudden evolution and outbreak of a disease, such as that depicted in “The Last Of Us” is not an impossible reality, according to the data. In the case of Candida auris, for example, it has already adapted to infect people and is “also potentially multi-drug resistant,” researchers noted. The same thing could happen with Candida orthopsilosis, especially as these fungi evolve to live in hotter and hotter environments.