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Desert soil may harbor a potentially invasive fungus. The fungal infection of the gastrointestinal tract which mimics cancer and inflammatory bowel disease, appears to be emerging in the Southwestern United States and other desert regions. Mayo Clinic researchers in Arizona are investigating the disease. The invasive fungus, Basidiobolus ranarum, is typically found in the soil, decaying organic matter and the gastrointestinal tracts of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and bats.
“The exact mode of acquisition of this gastrointestinal infection is unclear, although consumption of contaminated food or dirt is the favored hypothesis,” says lead author H.R. Vikram, M.D., an infectious diseases physician at Mayo Clinic, where seven of the 19 U.S. cases studied were treated. “The infection is still considered so rare that no one had put together a complete description.” He emphasizes that early recognition is key to successful treatment and that more study needs to be done to determine how this infection is contracted.
Soundbites from Dr. Vikram are availiable in the downloads above.
Expert Title: Dr. H.R. Vikram, Mayo Clinic Infectious Disease Specialist
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