On the emergence of cryptococcus gattii in the pacific northwest: Ballast Tanks, Tsunamis, and black swans

David M. Engelthaler, Arturo Casadevall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The appearance of Cryptococcus gattii in the North American Pacific Northwest (PNW) in 1999 was an unexpected and is still an unexplained event. Recent phylogenomic analyses strongly suggest that this pathogenic fungus arrived in the PNW approximately 7 to 9 decades ago. In this paper, we theorize that the ancestors of the PNW C. gattii clones arrived in the area by shipborne transport, possibly in contaminated ballast, and established themselves in coastal waters early in the 20th century. In 1964, a tsunami flooded local coastal regions, transporting C. gattii to land. The occurrence of cryptococcosis in animals and humans 3 decades later suggests that adaptation to local environs took time, possibly requiring an increase in virulence and further dispersal. Tsunamis as a mechanism for the seeding of land with pathogenic waterborne microbes may have important implications for our understanding of how infectious diseases emerge in certain regions. This hypothesis suggests experimental work for its validation or refutation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02193-19
JournalmBio
Volume10
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Black swan
  • Cryptococcus gattii
  • Disease ecology
  • Emerging infectious disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Mycology
  • Pacific northwest
  • Tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology

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