Tag: Golden Age of Medicine

Not The Last of Them


I’m seeing two conflicting yet connected visions about the future. One is when journalist David Wallace-Wells says we might be in for “golden age for medicine,” with CRISPR and mRNA revolutionizing drug development. The second is the dystopian HBO hit “The Last of Us,” in which a fungal infection has turned much of the world’s population into zombie-like creatures.

The conflict is clear but the connection not so much. Mr. Wallace-Wells never mentions fungi in his article, but if we’re going to have a golden age of medicine, or if we want to avoid a global fungal outbreak, we better be paying more attention to mycology – that is, the study of fungi.

We don’t need “The Last of Us” to be worried about fungal outbreaks.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Severe fungal disease used to be a freak occurrence. Now it is a threat to millions of vulnerable Americans, and treatments have been losing efficacy as fungal pathogens develop resistance to standard drugs. 

“It’s going to get worse,” Dr. Tom Chiller, head of the fungal-disease branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warns WSJ.

A new study found that a common yet extremely drug resistant type of fungus — Aspergillus fumigatus – has been found even in a very remote, sparsely populated part of China.  Professor Jianping Xu, one of the authors, points out: “This fungus is highly ubiquitous — it’s around us all the time. We all inhale hundreds of spores of this species every day.”

We shouldn’t be surprised, because fungi tend to spread by spores  In fact, according to Merlin Sheldrake’s fascinating Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds, and Shape Our Futures, fungi spores are the largest source of living particles in the air. They’re also in the ground, in the water, and in us. They’re everywhere.

That sounds scary, but without fungi, we not only wouldn’t be alive, we never would have evolved.

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