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Disease-causing genes spread easily in emerging lethal fungus infection

A rare, emerging fungal disease that is spreading throughout Canada and Northwestern USA can easily pass its deadly genes to related fungal strains within the species but less readily to more distant relatives, according to a study part-funded by the Wellcome Trust.

The findings will help to understand the origins of infectious outbreaks and predict the likelihood of the disease spreading to other populations and geographical areas.

Cryptococcus gattii is a type of fungus that was previously only found in warmer climates throughout the tropics. However, since 1999 outbreaks of highly virulent strains of the fungus have been reported in the cooler climes of Canada and Northwestern USA, causing serious illness in otherwise healthy people and domestic and wild animals and proving fatal in some cases.

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