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Medicine

13-Year-Old Finds Fungus Deadly To AIDS Patients Growing On Trees 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the nature-not-nurture dept.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers have pinpointed the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California for decades. It literally grows on trees. The discovery is based on the science project of a 13-year-old girl, who spent the summer gathering soil and tree samples from areas around Los Angeles hardest hit by infections of the fungus named Cryptococcus gattii.
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13-Year-Old Finds Fungus Deadly To AIDS Patients Growing On Trees

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  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Monday August 25, 2014 @08:53AM (#47747243)

    As great as that sounds, it's actually not the case here. The article states that the girl's father is an infectious disease researcher at UCLA and she was sending the samples to a lab at Duke to be DNA-sequenced. It seems like most of what she did was collect samples of the fungus for her father - an interesting summer project, but not exactly hard science.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:10AM (#47747403) Homepage Journal

    We have spent a ton of money on prevent education and detection. And it has done a lot of good.

    Infections are way down.
    http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/new... [cdc.gov]

  • by sjames (1099) on Monday August 25, 2014 @09:33AM (#47747573) Homepage

    So why didn't the hard scientists already know where the fungus was coming from?

    That's right, because they didn't do the science. The girl in TFA did.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2014 @10:29AM (#47748169)

    There is no widespread practice of beastiality within the countries where HIV developed. Current operating hypothesis is that it came from improper animal handling procedures resulting in blood-to-blood contact between SIV-infected apes and ordinary humans, allowing the virus to jump hosts.

  • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:05PM (#47749123)

    The student sampled 109 swabs of more than 30 tree species and 58 soil samples, grew and isolated the Cryptococcus fungus and then sent those specimens to Springer at Duke. Springer DNA-sequenced the samples from California and compared the sequences to those obtained from HIV/AIDS patients with C. gattii infections.

    Oh look, the "hard scientists" actually did the science.

    Dukeâ(TM)s chairman of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Joseph Heitman M.D., was contacted by longtime collaborator and UCLA infectious disease specialist Scott Filler, M.D., whose daughter Elan was looking for a project to work on during her summer break. They decided it would be fun to send her out in search of fungi living in the greater Los Angeles area.

    The girl didn't figure out where the fungus was coming from, nor did she even come up with the idea to sample fungus herself. The scientists knew it was coming from somewhere in the environment and, since they had an offer of help collecting samples, allowed the student to assist them.

    The girl did not do the science. She just assisted the scientists with the manual labor.

  • by LearningHard (612455) on Monday August 25, 2014 @12:48PM (#47749503) Journal

    My father in the mid-south had a 3 year long struggle with this infection. It has left him a completely different person (three tumors in his brain). This is a nasty disease that was previously sub-tropical and is making its way into North America. The treatment is really nasty.

    Amphotericin B has terrible common side effects and the nurses had a nickname for it that was something like "Ampho the Terrible."

    Flucytosine is also used and it has a dramatic effect on the mental state of the patient.

    During the time my father was taking these medications he suffered kidney failure, massive weight loss, constant nausea and vomiting, poor impulse control (to the point that it was like he had no filter to stop him from saying or doing anything). I'm very glad my father is still alive but even two years removed he still is suffering the effects of this illness.

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