Killer Lung Fungus Hits Northwest

Spores lodge in tissue; kill 25% of those infected
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2010 2:00 AM CDT
Updated Apr 23, 2010 7:11 AM CDT
Killer Lung Fungus Hits Northwest
The spores of Cryptococcus gatti lodge in the lungs of those infected.   (Shutterstock)

A virulent, deadly strain of a fungus that settles in human lungs has been discovered in the US Northwest. Cryptococcus gatti—or C. gatti—first spread from Canada into the US 5 years ago, but has recently developed into a particularly powerful strain in Oregon and is expected to move next to Washington, Idaho, and California. Nearly a quarter of people infected have died, reports National Geographic. "As the range of the organism expands and the number of cases increases, it's becoming a concern," a Duke University expert tells CNN.

The rare tropical fungus has generally infected only those whose immune systems are compromised, but the new strain is also infecting healthy individuals. Scientists are stumped at how humans breathe in the fungus, which is found in soil and trees. The symptoms include chest pain, a persistent cough, shortness of breath, fever, and weight loss. C. gatti has also infected animals, including dogs, cats, and even dolphins swimming as far south as San Diego. (More Cryptococcus gattii stories.)

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