Speaking at Cardiff University’s Science in Public Health lecture series, Professor Rosemary Barnes, from the School of Medicine’s Institute of Infection and Immunity said:
“For most people, fungal disease means a bit of athlete’s foot or a manky-looking toe nail.
These may be irritating and unsightly, but fungi can do far worse. Fungi kill more people than malaria and tuberculosis worldwide. They destroy about a third of all arable food crops.
Flooding caused by adverse weather conditions has caused a worsening situation of home dampness and indoor mold growth, which are associated with asthma, rhinitis and other respiratory problems.
Five and a half million people in the UK alone are living with asthma and half of these cases are down to an allergic reaction to fungi.
Emerging fungal diseases such as Dutch Elm, ash dieback, sweet chestnut blight and sudden oak death are also a real concern for Britain’s forests, said Professor Barnes.
Deforestation from fungal pathogens increases carbon dioxide emissions and contributes to global warming. Other diseases attack insect populations that are crucial for plant pollination.
Professor Barnes said that there needs to be more education around the impact of fungus on health, and the economy. She suggests improving diagnostic techniques, investing more into research in the area, and performing surveillance studies of the fungi and diseases.”