A potentially deadly strain of the airborne fungus, Cryptococcus gatti, is spreading in Canada and the U.S. Northwest.
The fungus usually only affects people with damaged immune systems, but this new strain is different.
It has started infecting healthier humans at an alarming rate and can spread among both humans and animals.
“This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people,” said Edmond Byrnes of Duke University in North Carolina, who led the study.
“The findings presented here document that the outbreak of C. gattii in Western North America is continuing to expand throughout this temperate region,” the researchers said in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal.
“Our findings suggest further expansion into neighbouring regions is likely to occur and aim to increase disease awareness in the region.”
The new strain appears to be unusually deadly, with a mortality rate of about 25 per cent among the 21 U.S. cases analysed, they said.
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