Potentially Deadly, Drug-Resistant Fungus Found in Commercial Flower Bulbs, Compost, and Soil

Potentially Deadly, Drug-Resistant Fungus Found in Commercial Flower Bulbs, Compost, and Soil

Seraiah Alexander
Seraiah Alexander
June 27, 2024
1 min

A drug-resistant and potentially deadly fungus may be lurking in your neighborhood plant store. According to recent findings, Aspergillus fumigatus, a fungus commonly found on retail plant products, has developed a resistance to azole antifungal drugs. Researchers from the University of Georgia have identified several genetic mutations in the fungus that cause this resistance, making it difficult to manage and treat infections in affected individuals.

A. fumigatus is a fungus found in soil, making it a frequent contaminant in several garden center products. Although this pathogenic fungus is typically harmless to healthy individuals, inhaling its spores can lead to an almost 100% fatality rate for immunocompromised individuals. The emergence of drug-resistant strains complicates treatment options and increases the risk of severe health issues for more vulnerable populations, including those with COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, type 2 diabetes, or cancer patients going through chemotherapy.

Researchers tested over 500 separate A. fumigatus strains, 90% of which were found in flower bulbs, compost, soil, and peanuts at popular garden retailers.

“We found dozens of strains of resistant fungi in just 1 gram of compost,” explained Marin Brewer, the study’s lead author and professor at UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Based on our findings, there could be tens of thousands of potentially resistant strains in one bag of compost.”

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In recent years, drug-resistant fungi have become a growing concern. Rising temperatures from climate change have created more favorable conditions for fungi to thrive, while the extensive use of anti-fungal drugs in agriculture has led to the evolution of resistant strains. These factors have made it incredibly challenging to effectively control and treat fungal infections like A. fumigatus.

To limit exposure to the fungus, the researchers recommend wearing N-95 masks when handling these gardening products or avoiding them altogether for the time being.


Seraiah Alexander

Seraiah Alexander

Content Editor

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