How deadly is Emergomyces africanus, the new fungal disease found in the Western Cape?


How deadly is Emergomyces africanus, the new fungal disease found in the Western Cape?

As if Listeriosis wasn’t enough to worry about

How deadly is Emergomyces africanus, the new fungal disease found in the Western Cape?


It takes a while to pronounce it properly, but once you get to know Emergomyces africanus, there really is no turning back.

The TimesLive reported that a medical study found traces of the fungal disease all across the Western Cape. Soil samples from Bellville, Kleinmond, Simon’s Town and Malmesbury all turned up traces of the infectious fungus, and that’s probably the last thing a water-stricken province wanted to hear.

How deadly is the Western Cape fungus?

Extremely. Emergomyces africanus is known to kill 50% of the people it infects. Chances of survival are as good as a coin toss.

Who is most likely to be effected by Emergomyces africanus?

The research team who were searching for the fungal infection found 14 patients in public hospitals who had been exposed to it. They concluded that anyone with HIV / AIDS has a significantly higher chance of contracting the disease.

What are the symptoms of this fungal disease?

According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who published the study lead by Ilan Schwartz, there are a couple of telltale signs that would indicate a patient has contracted Emergomyces africanus:

Widespread skin lesions – A rapid development of blisters or moles is an symptom of the diease.

Pulmonary disease – Any illnesses relating to your breathing have a chance of being related to EA.

Is Emergomyces africanus only in the Western Cape?

Nope. The team also took samples from Gauteng, Northern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and concluded that “Es. africanus is present in a high proportion of soil samples collected from a range of habitats in South Africa.”

However, they took most of their samples in the Cape region, and turned up the most results there. You’re more likely to come into contact with it if you are in the Western Cape, but you aren’t immune to it anywhere.

How can I avoid Emergomyces africanus

Even the scientists are a little baffled by this one. The research suggests that it can become an airborne toxin. So fighting against something like that becomes more difficult. As Schwartz writes, this is something of an unknown quantity:

“This is a newly described dimorphic fungal pathogen, and many aspects of this organism remain unknown.”

How reliable is this study?

Like all good scientists, Schwartz’s team were able to objectively look at their research. They accepted their sample size was small. But nonetheless, they were able to concluded that this pathogen thrives in South African soil.

“This study has some limitations. The number of samples, and especially those from outside Western Cape Province, was relatively small, limiting inferences about the geographic range of Es. africanus”

“Es. africanus can be frequently detected in a wide range of soils in South Africa. Moreover, our findings support the hypothesis that soil serves as a reservoir for this pathogen.”

As if the Western Cape didn’t have enough problems, they now have a fungal disease on the loose. As we have done with Listeriosis, TSA will be providing updates and news features on Emergomyces africanus should it develop into an outbreak.