Campus News

Mycologist discovers agricultural fungicides could be driving drug resistance

Marin Brewer, associate professor of mycology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, discussed a new study with Feedstuffs. The research, published by UGA, finds that fungicides used on plants could be leading to more antifungal medication resistance in humans.

“Our results show that resistance to the compounds used to combat fungal infections in humans is developing in agricultural environments,” said Brewer.

This means that when farmers use compounds to kill the fungus on their plants and then humans eat the plants, their bodies are less likely to respond to antifungal medications if they get an infection.

“The strains that are from the environment and from people are very closely related to each other,” Brewer said. “It’s not like there are different strains that are developing resistance in people and in the environment. It’s all the same. So, people who have these infections that are resistant have likely acquired them from the environment.”

Fungal infections can be incredibly serious, leading to over 1.5 million deaths in humans annually all over the world. Brewer says it is important to identify the source of resistance to help mitigate the problem and prevent antifungal resistance in the body.

“This emergence severely limits the usefulness of fungicides to manage plant pathogens while still preserving the clinical usefulness of azoles,” Brewer said. “We urgently need effective agricultural fungicides that aren’t toxic to the environment that do not lead to the rapid development of widespread resistance in the clinic.”