A new report from the New York Times suggests that the overuse of agricultural fungicides have created a new drug-resistant fungus that is quietly spreading across the globe. Fungi in the soil are adapting to the hostile environment created by industrial fungicide use, creating strains that are resistant to traditional antifungal medication.

A 2013 paper published by Dutch researchers in Plos Pathogens, a peer-reviewed medical journal, concluded that there appeared to be no coincidence that drug-resistant fungi were appearing in soil samples in an environment of heavy fungicide use. The researchers believe that the drug-resistance of a new fast-spreading fungal infection called Candida auris, which recently infiltrated the United States, may be a direct result of agricultural antifungal methods.

Key Facts

  • The fungus Candida auris (C. auris) was first encountered in a Japanese woman in 2009, but as since spread across the globe. It has recently been reported in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.
  • auris preys on people with weak immune systems and is impervious to major antifungal medications. The fungus spreads quickly on all contact surfaces and is extremely contagious.
  • Experts theorize that the drug-resistant fungus was developing due to the heavy use of fungicides in conventional crop production, which are used to keep plants from rotting.
  • This is similar to concerns about resistant bacteria caused by excessive use of antibiotics in livestock.

Reports like these underscore the need to adopt organic agricultural practices that reject the use of pesticides, fungicides, or antibiotics that may create resistant strains dangerous to human health.

Read the full article from the New York Times here. The full study on agricultural fungicides from Plos Pathogens can be found here.

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