Fungicide-Treated Fruits May Harbor Deadly Super-Yeast: Study
Recent research out of India raises concerns over the transmission risks of a harmful and hard-to-kill fungal infection. The study found drug-resistant strains of Candida auris on apples that had been treated with fungicides.
Photo Insert: Candida auris
The findings suggest that apples and other fruits dosed with these chemicals can inadvertently fuel the emergence and spread of this germ, which is known to cause deadly outbreaks in hospitals, Ed Cara reported for Gizmodo.
C. auris is an emerging pathogen and yeast (microscopic fungus) that was first discovered in 2009. Though most people exposed to it don’t become sick, it can cause a severe infection among people who are already sick or immunocompromised.
The fungus can be a serious threat in hospitals and health care environments where they can spur nosocomial infections. While C. auris outbreaks have been rare, doctors have already come across cases that were resistant to all available drugs, including in the US. Despite its recent emergence in humans, the fungus is thought to have existed in nature for quite some time
Last year, researchers in Canada and India were the first to document it in the wild, living in the warm island regions of India. That same team is behind this latest research, published in mBio in March.
In 2020 and 2021, they collected and sampled the surfaces of 84 fruits that had been grown or sold in India, mostly apples, looking for disease-causing yeasts like C. auris. On eight of these apples (13%), they found a diverse variety of drug-resistant strains of the fungus.
None of the apples freshly picked from an orchard had traces of C. auris, however; the apples stored and sold at stores often had other related species of Candida on them as well.
These findings indicate, the study authors say, that the process of treating apples and other fruits with fungicides—often done to keep them from spoiling—is helping foster the growth of these superbugs.
“Our findings suggest that C. auris in the natural ecosystem may come in contact with agriculture fungicides and that stored fruits could be a significant niche for the selection of azole resistance in C. auris and other human fungal pathogens,” the scientists wrote.