Deadly fungi in Cape Town
LARGE populations of potentially deadly fungi are thriving in central Cape Town.
But the microbiologist who discovered them says the cryptococcal fungi – which cause meningitis – do not pose a risk in people whose immune systems have not been compromised by HIV-Aids.
After tuberculosis‚ cryptococcal meningitis is the leading cause of death in HIV-Aids patients in sub-Saharan Africa.
People become infected when they inhale the airborne microscopic spores produced by pathogenic cryptococcal fungi, which grow on decaying wood.
Last year‚ South Africa launched the world’s largest national screening programme to detect cryptococcal meningitis in HIV patients.
Stellenbosch University PhD student Jo Marie Vreulink said yesterday it offered excellent protection from the disease.
Her supervisor‚ Professor Alf Botha‚ had been searching for the fungi in South Africa since 2003, when Vreulink found numerous colonies in samples collected from a park in the centre of Cape Town.
The find and another in the Northern Cape are the first locations where the fungi have been found in such large numbers on trees in South Africa.