Fungal Diseases: a lecture about this emerging challenge to human, animal and plant health

Dr. Ariena van Bruggen will present a seminar and workshop overview to be held on January 18, at 4 p.m., in the University of Florida department of plant pathology, 2318 Fifield Hall.

Fungal diseases of animals and humans are on the rise, including the ‘Bat White Nose’ syndrome (Geomyces destructans) in the eastern United States, human pulmonary cryptococcosis (Cryptococcus gattii) in the western United States and in Canada, and amphibian chytridiomycosis (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) worldwide.

These are some of the glaring examples of diseases that are spreading quickly, resulting in extinctions of bats and amphibians and occasional deaths in otherwise healthy humans. New fungal and oomycetal plant pathogens are also cropping up at an increasing pace, such as sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum), new strains of wheat stem rust (Puccinia graminis f.sp. tritici), and yellow or stripe rust (Puccinia striiformis).

On December 14-15, 2010, Ariena van Bruggen, a professor of plant pathology and EPI plant disease epidemiologist, participated in a workshop on ‘Fungal Diseases: an emerging challenge to human, animal and plant health’, organized by the Institute of Medicine Board on Global Health, Forum on Microbial Threats, held in the Keck Building of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C.

(In photo: Ariena van Bruggen)


Invited participants to the Forum on Microbial Threats were plant pathologists that have investigated fungal diseases for decades, and several specialists in emerging plant diseases gave presentations for a mostly medical audience. The topics ranged from overviews of fungi, the spread of emerging fungi, potential reasons for their emergence and spread, fungal pathogenesis and host-pathogen interactions for surveillance, detection and response. One noteworthy example presented was the case of a plant pathogen (Fusarium oxysporum) that becomes a human pathogen by the activation of a different set of pathogenicity genes in the same strains.


The Forum on Microbial threats was established in 1996 to provide a structured opportunity for discussion of emerging infectious diseases. It publishes summary reports of its workshops and can make recommendations to the National Research Council and thereby to policy makers, and proceedings of the workshops are often published as books.