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Scientists track evolution and spread of deadly fungus, one of the world's major killers

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New research has shed light on the origins of a fungal infection which is one of the major causes of death from AIDS-related illnesses. The study, published today in the journal PLoS Pathogens, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the BBSRC, shows how the more virulent forms of Cryptococcus neoformans evolved and spread out of Africa and into Asia.

Cryptococcus neoformans is a species of often highly aggressive fungi. One particular strain of the fungus – known as Cryptococcus neoformas variety grubii (Cng) – causes meningitis amongst patients with compromised immune systems following HIV infection. There are believed to over up to a million cases of cryptococcal meningitis each year, resulting in over 600,000 deaths. Infection with the fungus, which invades the central nervous system, is treated with a life long therapy of antifungal drugs, which can have highly unpleasant side effects.

 
 

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