In 2002, a robot was sent inside the sarcophagus of the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and took samples of mold and fungi which were growing on the walls. Five years later, researchers from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine demonstrated that certain fungi “have the capacity to use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.”
With Fukushima Daiichi & the Japanese burning of tsunami debris spreading nuclear poison over the whole earth, we have a recipe for fat, healthy fungi and sick, dying people.
These fungus species are known as radiotrophic fungi. They use the pigment melanin to convert gamma and beta radiation into chemical energy for growth.
ALL MELANIZED FUNGI ARE POTENTIAL RADIOTROPHIC FUNGI
In the original paper, the researchers Dadachova et al showed that ionizing radiation changes the electronic properties of melanin, and enhances the growth of melanized fungi. So any fungus species that contain melanin have their growth spurred in the presence of ionizing radiation. These are not mutant fungi, they are ordinary fungus species found everywhere in the environment. Some of them are common molds that grow in your basement or bathroom.
So these fungi do not actually feed on radiation, they change the properties of melanin, so that it can be converted into energy for growth. Think of radiation as an enzyme that allows melanin to be “digested”. Effectively, it’s the same thing, though.
FUNGI ARE RADIATION-TOLERANT AND ACCUMULATE RADIONUCLIDES
In this paper, Dadachova and Casadevall discuss the radiation tolerance of fungi, and its role as an adaptation mechanism. There is evidence of widespread prevalence of melanized fungi in the early days of Earth, when radiation was at a much higher level than it is today.
Anyone that follows Chernobyl and radiation measurements of food in Japan know that the worst radioactive contamination in any foodstuffs are in mushrooms. Fungi are very efficient at absorbing radionuclides. Actually, they will eat anything.
RADIONUCLIDES ACCUMULATE IN TREE BARKS
Researchers in Turkey found that cesium-137 (from Chernobyl) accumulates more in oak bark than even lichen (which had been thought to be the most contaminated life form). Professor Mori of the WINEP blog showed an autoradiograph of how radionuclides were found in oak bark. Many mushroom species grow on these barks.
MELANIZED FUNGI GROW TOWARDS WHERE THE RADIATION IS
Dadachova and Casadevall also discuss radiotropism. This is the tendency of these fungi to move from less contaminated areas of the plant, to more contaminated areas. In a tree, if the fungi start eating in the inmost hardwood area (with the least contamination), they will grow towards the bark on the outside, destroying the tree from the inside out.
RADIATION PROMOTES SPORE GERMINATION
The two authors also discussed how radiation increases the amount of spores released by these fungi:
They observed that radiation promoted spore germination in species from contaminated regions, which they called “radiostimulation”. Contrary to their previous results they observed the “radiostimulation” only for the species from contaminated regions but not for isolates from the clean areas. They named this phenomenon “radioadaptive response”.
SPORES MAY TRAVEL IN THE JET STREAM
MELANIZED FUNGI SURVIVE FOOD IRRADIATION
Food is treated with gamma rays, which destroy bacteria and microorganisms in the food. The authors also noted that melanized fungi are radioresistant to the typical radiation levels used in this treatment.
Rhizomorphs or mycelial cords are aggregations of hyphae growing from fungi, which resemble tree roots. They provide water and nutrients for the organism. They can grow very long, under streets and pavements, and can draw nutrients from decomposing leaves at the surface. These leaves may be contaminated with radioactivity, which is all the better for them. They also colonize new hosts (trees), in this manner.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF FUNGAL DAMAGE TO TREES
This link provides illustrations of different tree diseases caused by fungi. My son and I recently went on a field trip to 5 different sites in the local area, and saw different kinds of damage. Sometimes the crown goes first, sometimes it is at the bottom, etc.
GROWTH OF MELANIZED FUNGI IN DOMESTIC ENVIRONMENTS
This pdf provides a good summary on how melanized fungi grow in domestic environments. Many species evolved in unusual ecological niches, and fit right into today’s home. They love dishwashers.
MELANIZED FUNGI CAUSE HUMAN DISEASE AND DEATH
This excellent article (pdf) reviews the current state of medical knowledge of health impacts of melanized fungi. They include the diseases eumycetoma, chromoblastomycosis, and phaeohyphomycosis. The authors classify the conditions into the categories allergic disease, superficial and deep local infections, pulmonary disease, central nervous system (CNS) infection, and disseminated disease.
Exposure to these fungi is usually due to breathing or minor cuts from infected agents, like thorns or farm implements. “Surveys of outdoor air for fungal spores routinely show dematiaceous (melanized) fungi. This suggests that all individuals are exposed, though few develop disease. Exposure is primarily from inhalation or minor trauma, which is frequently not even noticed by the patient.” Most of these cases occur in the tropics, but they will widely distributed over the planet from now on.
It is important to recognize that exposure to radiotrophic fungi also includes exposure to radioactivity, which of course increases the risk of disease.
“Allergic responses to dematiaceous fungi may actually represent the most common clinical manifestation of these fungi. Though asthma has many associated environmental factors, several studies have linked it with exposure to molds and to dematiaceous fungi… Allergic fungal sinusitis is a relatively common condition, with estimates of 6 to 9% of all cases of chronic sinusitis requiring surgery… it is now appreciated that disease due to dematiaceous fungi actually comprises the majority of cases… Allergic bronchopulmonary mycosis (ABPM) is similar in presentation to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), which is typically seen in patients with asthma or cystic fibrosis.”
“These cases of superficial infections involve only keratinized tissues, such as the fingernails and toenails and the stratum corneum. Consequences of these infections are generally cosmetic… Tinea nigra is an uncommon infection confined to the stratum corneum. The characteristic appearance is that of a pigmented macule, usually on the palms or soles, and may be bilateral.”
DEEP LOCAL INFECTIONS
“Subcutaneous lesions are the most common case reports of infection due to melanized fungi in the literature… Many patients are immunocompetent, and they often are from a rural background, i.e., farmers with frequent, minor trauma from plant material or gardeners… Lesions typically occur on exposed areas of the body and often appear as isolated cystic or papular lesions. Presentation is usually indolent, with weeks to months of gradual enlarging mass, though pain is often absent. Severely immunocompromised patients are at increased risk of subsequent dissemination, though this may rarely occur in apparently immunocompetent patients as well. Occasionally, infection may extend to involve joints or bone, requiring more extensive surgery or prolonged antifungal therapy.”
“Fungal keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) is an important ophthalmologic problem, particularly in tropical areas of the world. In one large series, 40% of all infectious keratitis was caused by fungi, almost exclusively molds.”
“Pulmonary infection is usually seen in immunocompromised patients or those with underlying lung disease, and it may be due to a wide variety of species… Clinical manifestations include pneumonia, asymptomatic solitary pulmonary nodules, and endobronchial lesions which may cause hemoptysis.”
CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM INFECTION
“Central nervous system infection is a rare but frequently fatal manifestation of phaeohyphomycosis, often in immunocompetent individuals. In a review of 101 cases of central nervous system infection due to dematiaceous fungi, the most common presentation was found to be brain abscess… What is truly unique about this disease is that over half the cases were in patients with no risk factor or immunodeficiency. In addition, no specific exposures were associated with onset of infection, though many cases seem to occur in rural areas. Typical symptoms included headache, neurologic deficits, and seizures, though rarely all three… Mortality was >70%… The pathogenesis may be hematogenous spread from an initial, presumably subclinical pulmonary focus, though this remains speculation. However, it remains unclear why these fungi preferentially cause CNS disease in immunocompetent individuals… Meningitis has also been described, usually in immunocompromised patients.”
“Disseminated infection is the most uncommon manifestation of infection caused by melanized fungi. In a review of 72 cases, most patients were immunocompromised, though occasional patients without known immunodeficiency or risk factors developed disseminated disease as well… Interestingly, peripheral eosinophilia has been observed in 9% of cases, and these were generally due to Bipolaris and Curvularia. These same species are often associated with allergic disease… The mortality rate was >70%, despite aggressive antifungal therapy. There were no antifungal regimens associated with improved survival for disseminated infection.”
This abstract from researchers in China details symptoms of cerebral phaeohyphomycosis.
“Cerebral phaeohyphomycosis is a fungal infection of the brain typically caused by Cladophialophora bantiana, Exophiala dermatitidis, and Rhinocladiella mackenziei, all of which belong to the order Chaetothyriales. The disease results in black, necrotic brain tissue, black pus, and black cerebrospinal fluid. Pathogens usually reach the brain through the bloodstream or lymphatic fluid and occasionally through direct spreading or accidental inoculation. Patients can present with hemiparesis, tonic spasm, headache, fever, sensory variation, cerebral irritation, and even psychotic behavioural changes.”
The black, necrotic brain tissue is similar to the black, necrotic leaf tissue we have seen in the dying trees. The same thing that is happening to the trees happens to human brains.
Humans are radioactive too. These fungi seek food.
Read this blog, the Wit’s End blog, or a database of photos I am collecting for more information. Or go to Flickr and enter the search term “Sandy tree”. Most of the uprooted and broken trees from Hurricane Sandy show sign of fungal damage. Tree damage and death is rapidly spreading across the planet.
UPDATE: CDC Responds to Multistate Outbreak of Fungal Meningitis and Other Infections
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with state and local health departments and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is investigating a multistate outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections among patients who received contaminated preservative-free MPA steroid injections from NECC. Several patients suffered strokes that are believed to have resulted from their infections. The investigation also includes other infections from injections in a peripheral joint, such as a knee, shoulder, or ankle. Patients who received injections in peripheral joints only are not believed to be at risk for meningitis, but they could be at risk for joint and other infections.
As of November 15, 2012, the predominant fungus identified in patients continues to be Exserohilum rostratum, with 84 CDC laboratory-confirmed cases. One patient, the index case, had a laboratory-confirmed Aspergillus fumigatus [JPG - 29 KB] infection. These fungi are common in the environment; fungal infections are not transmitted from person to person.
Exserohilum rostratum is a melanized fungus that is on the list of those that affect human health. More information from wikipedia.
32 36 dead so far.
UPDATE: An excellent scientific review on mycotoxins is available here. These are secondary poisons from fungi that affect the health of humans, animals, and plants. Some are carcinogenic.