Disease X warning as WHO claims array of killer fungi could spark new pandemic

Invasive infections from fungi could become a catastrophic risk dubbed the new Disease X as antibiotics grow increasingly resistant, top doctors fear.

Experts from the World Health Organisation say the risk of death to humans has skyrocketed because it is getting more difficult to treat common infections caused by fungi such as vaginal thrush.

A huge increase in travel between different countries alongside global warming has made this risk worse, experts say.

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Medics published a list of 19 fungi with risks ranging from a critical to medium priority.

Of the four included in the critical category, a pathogen known as Cryptococcus neoformans was listed as a big threat.

The deadly pathogenic yeast can live in soil and wood and has a mortality rate of between 41 and 61%.

Another dubbed as a critical threat by scientists is the Candida auris yeast, which they say has high outbreak potential and has already infected several hospitals.

It has a death rate of between 29 and 53% and is resistant to most available antifungal medicines.

A third on the critical list is Aspergillus fumigatus, a mould that can be inhaled before spreading to the brain and potentially killing its victim.

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While the final threat is Candida albicans, which is commonly found in the mouth and gut and is usually harmless, but can quickly cause infection if it multiplies.

Top doctor Hanan Balkhy, assistant director-general of antimicrobial resistance at the WHO, said: “Emerging from the shadows of the bacterial antimicrobial resistance pandemic, fungal infections are growing.

“[They] are ever more resistant to treatments, becoming a public health concern worldwide.”

People most at risk to the worrying new threats are those with a previous health condition such as cancer, AIDS, chronic respiratory disease or those who have had an organ transplant.

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