Evolution and adaptation of human fungal pathogens to a warming world

Year of award: 2022


  • Dr Norman van Rhijn

    University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Project summary

Climate change will impact the epidemiology of infectious diseases globally, with fungal infections posing a particularly serious challenge, imposing an economic burden on healthcare (>$10 billion globally) and causing 1.5 million deaths annually. The spread of fungal species towards the poles due to climate change has already been observed, as has an increase in abundance of thermophilic and pathogenic fungi coupled with rising levels of antifungal resistance. Together these factors have driven increasing prevalence of fungal infections in humans, animals and crops and have reduced available treatment options.

Aspergillosis in the UK and continental Europe is generally caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, but interestingly in other parts of the world, such as Pakistan, India and the Middle East, A. flavus dominates. It is assumed A. flavus is better adapted to hot climates.

The impact and risks of climate change on fungal diseases is currently very poorly understood. My aim, therefore, is to understand adaptation of Aspergilli to thermal and antifungal stresses, and how these fungal traits combine to determine the establishment and severity of infections.