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Someone asked me a question after my talk on climate change and emerging fungal pathogens. The question was, why should we give attention to fungi when we know the risk of bioengineering it can be low. Hence the weight given to viruses and bacteria. I thought through and wondered that it is interesting and the EA community should understand why this should be considered. I think in my opinion we need to take fungi very seriously for so many reasons:

What we know that makes fungi pathogen interesting:

  1. There are only three known anitifungal drugs against major fungi pathogens which are not very effective. The available antifungals have narrow spectrus and high toxicity, and because of the plasticity of the fungi genome resistance is developed very easily. The seriousness of this issue was brought to fore during the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of secondary infections due to fungi pathogens were reported .  The emergence of Azole resistance Aspergillus in Europe and environment is a concern as the mortality due to antibiotics resistance and limited drugs can get up to 100%
  2. There are no vaccines for fungi. Currently, there are no immunotherapy or any vaccine available for any fungal infection. More research and funding is needed. Here is a nice paper that shows how close we are to finding a vaccine against any fungi pathogen.
  3. Candida auris the first fungi to have emerged as a result of climate change is a fungal pathogen. This is really interesting because this yeast behaves like bacteria and is naturally resistant to some antifungals. It is difficult to treat and led to the shutting down of hospitals . A Detroit hospital will stop taking patients temporarily as it tries to contain an outbreak of a rare, but potentially deadly and drug-resistant fungus. Find link to this new here. It was first discovered in 2009 and have now been reported in all the continents of the world.  The CDC gives reasons why this pathogen is a problem

Why is Candida auris a problem? source 

  • It causes serious infections. C. auris can cause bloodstream infections and even death, particularly in hospital and nursing home patients with serious medical problems. More than 1 in 3 patients with invasive C. auris infection (for example, an infection that affects the blood, heart, or brain) die.
  • It’s often resistant to medicines. Antifungal medicines commonly used to treat Candida infections often don’t work for Candida auris. Some C. auris infections have been resistant to all three types of antifungal medicines.
  • It’s becoming more common. Although C. auris was just discovered in 2009, it has spread quickly and caused infections in more than a dozen countries.
  • It’s difficult to identify. C. auris can be misidentified as other types of fungi unless specialized laboratory technology is used. This misidentification might lead to a patient getting the wrong treatment.
  • It can spread in hospitals and nursing homes. C. auris has caused outbreaks in healthcare facilities and can spread through contact with affected patients and contaminated surfaces or equipment. Good hand hygiene and cleaning in healthcare facilities is important because C. auris can live on surfaces for several weeks

4. Fungi are the only species that have caused the complete extinction of a species. A newspaper reported thus "A deadly fungus that has driven more species to extinction than any other pathogen has spread across Africa unnoticed. Chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd for short, is a highly infectious fungus that affects frogs, toads, salamanders and other amphibians(Source). Although various diseases, such as white-nose syndrome resulting from the European fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, have inflicted harm upon animal populations, none have wrought the catastrophic consequences witnessed with Bd. This fungus is believed to be responsible for the decline of a minimum of 501 amphibian species worldwide and has contributed to the extinction of 90 species. Additionally, white-nose syndrome has claimed the lives of over 5.7 million bats throughout North America.

5. Fungi has a lot of Biosafety class 3 pathogens that are less studied without much antifungal therapy. Examples are Blastomyces dermatitidis, Coccidioides and Histoplasma capsulatum . All these are pathogenic to immune competent hosts. 

What my lab is doing:

One question my lab is interested in is to know what are the species diversity of the fungi population in the African context and how are these species adapting to climate change. Are we likely to see a jump like we have seen with Candida auris?


This question is very tricky. It is a high-risk, high-yield project. For example, whereas Cryptococcus neoformans causes more infections in Sub-saharan Africa, most of the research is based outside Africa. In my lab we are trying to use metagenomic and one health approach to find out the population diversity of fungi pathogens and to attempt to answer the question, are we likely to see a new fungi that can threaten human lives? 


We reported the first case of a plant pathogen that has jumped to humans "First report of neonatal sepsis due to Moesziomyces bullatus in a preterm low-birth-weight infant"



Anyone that succeeds in bio-engineering any fungi will do great damage to humanity. This is because research and funding in this area is minimal. The emergence of C. auris have proven that we can have a fungal species that acts like bacteria and threatens life. How this pathogen evolved is still a mystery.  If you wish to talk more about this and to know what our lab is doing in Nigeria. I will be willing to talk more with anyone. 

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Edit: I now believe knowledge of fungal pathogens to be an information hazard and do not endorse publicising it outside of relevant communities. 

I strongly agree to the fact that we should take fungal pathogens seriously and that awareness of potentially existential risk from fungal pathogens is scarce. 

The facts laid out in this post are quite shocking and I expect that many people would take fungal pathogens seriously after being presented with them. Thus I believe it might be useful to start raising awareness outside of EA circles as well in order to attract more biosecurity researchers.

One way of attempting this would be to reach out to major youtube channels who cover this kind of content such as Kurzgesagt and see whether they would be willing to release videos on fungal pathogens.

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Do we want popular YouTubers to be spreading awareness of this given it also increases some of the risk of bad actors getting ideas?

Related: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/3a6QWDhxYTz5dEMag/how-can-we-improve-infohazard-governance-in-ea-biosecurity

I agree with you on this. It is true we need awareness of the importance of this, however such sensitive topic should be carefully communicated because of bad actors that might exploit this for negative use. @DC What do you think is the line between science communication and feeding bad actors with useful information?

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you fungi infection are very shocking. We breathe these pathogenic fungi everyday in the air. Azole resistant Aspergillosis is becoming a global issue in the US and around the globe. This is an important cause area.

My graduate students are working on looking for any jump.

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