Microbiologists have found deadly fungi, which, when inhaled by humans, can cause meningitis, in large numbers on old wood in South Africa

Stellenbosch University microbiologists have found large populations of cryptococcal fungi on woody debris collected from old trees in two public areas in the centre of Cape Town and the Northern Cape, South Africa.

How are people infected with cryptococcal meningitis?

After tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis is the leading cause of death in HIV/AIDS patients in Sub-Saharan Africa.

People become infected when they inhale the airborne microscopic spores produced by pathogenic cryptococci occurring in the environment.

Related: How to protect children from meningitis

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Found and identified by PhD student Jo-Marie Vreulink, this is the first time that both Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii have been found in such large numbers on trees in South Africa.

Cryptococcus neoformans causes a severe form of meningitis, mostly in individuals with a compromised immune system.

Generally, healthy people’s immune systems are able to ward off the infection. Cryptococcus gattii, on the other hand, can lead to meningitis in even healthy individuals.

Source: Stellenbosch University via www.sciencedaily.com

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