Fungal epidemic to destroy mankind very slowly
In the last 20 years the number of fungal diseases of plants and animals (mycoses) in the world has dramatically increased. Annually fungi kill 125 million tons of rice, corn, potatoes and soybeans, causing economic damage totaling nearly $60 billion. This amount of food could feed 8.5 percent of the population of the Earth for a year
According to the researchers from the Imperial College, University of London (UK), the world is threatened by fungal epidemic. Increasingly more new species of animals and plants are "invaded" by pathogenic fungi, which may lead to catastrophic consequences for the ecosystem and the population of the globe, including climate change and total starvation. This is not just another horror story. According to the statistics gathered under the framework of the international projects ProMED and HealthMap, in the last 20 years the number of fungal diseases of plants and animals (mycoses) in the world has dramatically increased. Annually fungi kill 125 million tons of rice, corn, potatoes and soybeans, causing economic damage totaling nearly $60 billion. This amount of food could feed 8.5 percent of the population of the Earth for a year. So far we are talking only about local infections, but researchers do not rule out that the epidemic may eventually become of a global scale.
In fact, in 72 percent of cases pathogenic fungi is the cause of death of animal species, with much smaller percentage of them dying from bacteria and viruses. As the scientists explain, for the latter it simply does not make sense to kill their "hosts", because this would cause their own death. Fungi have a different cycle of life, and they do not need to constantly dwell on their "medium."For example, the variety of fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis that lives on toads and frogs, during the last ten years, affected over 500 species of amphibians in 54 countries around the world.
In Central America alone, the insidious fungus destroyed 40 percent of the species, and the way to get rid of it is yet to be discovered.
Another fungus, Geomyces destructans, causes the so-called "white nose syndrome" in bats. This syndrome is characterized by extensive lesions on the bats' skin, as well as the advent of soft white shoots on the nose, hence the name.
In the 2000s it managed to destroy a significant portion of the population of bats in North America.Also, fungal infections have led to the destruction of more than 100 million elms and 3.5 million chestnuts in Britain and the United States. Incidentally, recently numerous fungal infections have been described that can attack any living organisms, including insects, algae and mammals. The species of fungi that "eat" humans have not been yet discovered (it is possible that this is just a matter of time), but the damage to humanity from the fungal "aggression" in relation to other living species can be calculated. When the bats destroying insects are killed by the white nose syndrome, American farmers are suffering losses of approximately 3.7 billion dollars a year. If some species are disappearing and their diversity is reduced, it cannot but affect humans as part of the ecosystem.
For example, if fungus kills trees, 230-580 megatons of carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, accounting for 0.07 percent of atmospheric CO2. This may well have an impact on the climate by increasing the greenhouse effect. Why are fungi so "invincible"? First, they are exceptionally resilient. They can "wait" for years until the conditions for growth arise.
Second, many fungi species can attack several living species. Third, fungi are capable of interspecific exchange of genes, which leads to the emergence of new, more dangerous genetic combinations. Fourth, the contaminated biological specimens and different types of human communication can facilitate the spread of fungal infection over long distances. Unfortunately, the panacea against a "fungal attack" today does not exist.
As measures to combat it the scientists propose tighter sanitary controls and increased funding for mycological and genetic research. As the saying goes, one must know the enemy's face to invent methods of combating it. Irina Shlionskaya Pravda.Ru Read the original in Russian .