Chondrostereum Purpureum: Kolkata man catches potentially deadly plant disease; first such case in world

Source: The post is based on the article “Kolkata man catches potentially deadly plant disease; first such case in world” published in The Economic Times on 1st April 2023.

What is the News?

A 61-year-old man from Kolkata has been recently diagnosed with an infection from Chondrostereum Purpureum, a deadly plant fungus. This is said to be the first such known case in the world.

What is Chondrostereum Purpureum?

Chondrostereum purpureum is a plant fungus that causes silver leaf disease in plants, particularly those in the rose family.

Distribution: It is commonly found in temperate regions of the northern and southern hemispheres. It is often found on old stumps and dead wood, but can also be a serious parasite of living trees.

Disease on plants: It attacks most species of the rose family Rosaceae, particularly the genus Prunus.

The fungus easily grows on dead or dying wood, but when it latches on to healthy living plants. The disease is spread by airborne spores landing on freshly exposed sapwood. It eventually kills them, turning the leaves silver in the process.

How Chondrostereum Purpureum can infect humans?

Reasons for infecting humans: a) Repeated exposure to decaying material could be behind this rare type of infection in humans, b) Rising temperature due to global warming is thought of as one of the major reasons for this new threat to human beings. 

Note: Most fungi thrive in the range of 12°C to 30°C.However, many species are thermotolerant and can withstand high temperatures.

Symptoms in humans: Recurring cough, hoarseness of voice, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat and fatigue. The patient also has a paratracheal abscess (a painful collection of pus) in the neck. Such abscesses can block airways and can be deadly if not detected and treated on priority.

This Chondrostereum Purpureum infection among humans highlights a) the potential of environmental plant fungi to cause disease in humans, b) stresses the importance of molecular techniques to identify the causative fungal species and c) of the hundreds of millions of fungal species, only a few cause infections in humans. This may be the start of a new phenomenon when plant fungus is adapting to invade human cells by evading the process of ‘phagocytosis’. 

Note: Phagocytosis means ‘cell eating’. It happens when a cell uses its plasma membrane to engulf a large particle giving rise to an internal compartment called the ‘phagosome’. Organisms clean and defend themselves through this process.

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