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Mycoses and natural disasters

Mycoses and disaster; it may sound like a “strange” combination of words.

Recently, natural catastrophes have been frequently reported worldwide. Floods and landslides may alter the existing natural environment and significantly impact living organisms in the environment. Fungi are among microorganisms and make their habitat in soil or natural waters. Therefore, they can change their distributional range significantly by disasters.

In January 1994, a massive earthquake struck California, US. Then, a major landslide occurred on a slope of a nearby mountain, and a large amount of dust spread on the wind. A week later, many patients with fever and pneumonia (totally 203 patients) began to be found in the leeward towns, and some patients died. Results of the survey on this outbreak revealed to be caused by coccidioidomycosis. The causative fungus, Coccidioides, lives in soil and would spread to the leeward towns along with dust.

In our country, an outbreak of mycosis associated with disasters has also been reported. Among the infectious diseases suffering the survivors after the Tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake, a rare mycosis, scedosporiosis, were found, and 3 cases have been reported after the investigation, in which our Center participate. The causative fungus Scedosporium usually makes its habitat in the natural waters. In general, it is not highly infectious; however, the massive exposure to the fungus after the Tsunami and the immunological deterioration due to various factors along with the disaster might be the proximate causes of the outbreak.

As mentioned above, it is becoming clear that mycoses and disasters are closely related. The worldwide pandemic COVID-19 can also be regarded as a "disaster." In fact, mycoses have been reported as a complication.

MMRC is the only public mycosis research facility in Japan and should serve an increasingly important social role in an era when large-scale disasters are expected.

(August 2, 2021)