Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Fungus deadly to Aids patients grows on trees!

25 August 2014, 10:41

Lagos - A 13-year-old girl found the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/Aids patients in Southern California for many years.

Researchers have pinpointed the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/Aids patients in Southern California for decades. It literally grows on trees.

Life-threatening infections

The discovery is based on the science project of a 13-year-old girl, who spent the summer gathering soil and tree samples from areas around Los Angeles hardest hit by infections of the fungus named Cryptococcus gattii (CRIP-to-cock-us GAT-ee-eye).

Cryptococcus, which encompasses a number of species including C. gattii, causes life-threatening infections of the lungs and brain and is responsible for one third of all Aids-related deaths.

The study, which appears in PLOS Pathogens, found strong genetic evidence that three tree species – Canary Island pine, Pohutukawa and American sweetgum – can serve as environmental hosts and sources of these human infections.

"Just as people who travel to South America are told to be careful about drinking the water, people who visit other areas like California, the Pacific Northwest and Oregon need to be aware that they are at risk for developing a fungal infection, especially if their immune system is compromised," said Deborah J. Springer, Ph.D., lead study author and postdoctoral fellow in the Centre for Microbial Pathogenesis at Duke University School of Medicine.

In search of fungi

A few years ago, Duke's chairman of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Joseph Heitman M.D., was contacted by longtime collaborator and UCLA infectious disease specialist Scott Filler, M.D., whose daughter Elan was looking for a project to work on during her summer break. They decided it would be fun to send her out in search of fungi living in the greater Los Angeles area.

The student sampled 109 swabs of more than 30 tree species and 58 soil samples, grew and isolated the Cryptococcus fungus, and then sent those specimens to Springer at Duke. Springer DNA-sequenced the samples from California and compared the sequences to those obtained from HIV/Aids patients with C. gattii infections.

She was surprised to find that specimens from three of the tree species were genetically almost indistinguishable from the patient specimens.

The researchers also found that the C. gattii isolated from the environment were fertile, reproducing either by sexual or asexual reproduction.

"That finding is important for long-term prevalence in the environment, because this fungal pathogen will be able to grow, reproduce, disperse spores, and serve as a source of ongoing infections," Springer said.


For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...