Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Fungus and Plants

Yesterday's high was 94 - it was a warm one!  We ended up going to the gym because of the heat.  Today the high is 20 degrees cooler and the winds are very unpleasant.  Standing out on the patio this morning, dust was obscuring the mountains we can generally see in the far distance.  We decided against hiking, when it's this windy and dusty, Valley Fever spores can be lifted out of the desert dirt, and into our lungs.  Between the two times I've lived in Tucson, I've spent almost 15 years here, so it's entirely possible I've already had Valley Fever and was not aware of it.  However, why take a chance.  Plus, it's really windy.  It's all part of the monster storm that's heading across the country.

Speaking of fungal infections....There is a new superbug on the map.  It's a fungus, candida auris.  It was first seen in 2009, and there have been outbreaks and deaths all over the world.  Hospitals and nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to it.  The symptoms are fever, aches and fatigue. In people who are already weakened, it can be fatal. There is no known treatment for it because it's resistant to our entire inventory of antifungals.  NYT did a really good article on it, which you can find here.  Some highlights of the article are:
With bacteria and fungi alike, hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks for fear of being seen as infection hubs. Even the C.D.C., under its agreement with states, is not allowed to make public the location or name of hospitals involved in outbreaks. State governments have in many cases declined to publicly share information beyond acknowledging that they have had cases.

This hushed panic is playing out in hospitals around the world. Individual institutions and national, state and local governments have been reluctant to publicize outbreaks of resistant infections, arguing there is no point in scaring patients — or prospective ones.
Dr. Silke Schelenz, Royal Brompton’s infectious disease specialist, found the lack of urgency from the government and hospital in the early stages of the outbreak “very, very frustrating.”

Dr. Chiller theorizes that C. auris may have benefited from the heavy use of fungicides. His idea is that C. auris actually has existed for thousands of years, hidden in the world’s crevices, a not particularly aggressive bug. But as azoles began destroying more prevalent fungi, an opportunity arrived for C. auris to enter the breach, a germ that had the ability to readily resist fungicides now suitable for a world in which fungi less able to resist are under attack.
Anti-fungals are sprayed all over agricultural products to keep them from rotting.  Just as society is creating super-bacteria by putting antibiotics into the meat supply, now we're doing it for fungus.  What's really annoying is that the consumer can not get the information as to whether or not the local hospitals have had or are having an outbreak.  One facility ended up tearing out much of the interior of a patient's room to get rid of it.

I think this is a Hooded Oriole.  He was on the old agave flower spike, singing a nice song.

The prickly pear buds continue to open.

The agave spike next to our wall is continuing its path to world domination.  One thing we do wonder is how we'll be removing the dead agave from the bank once it's done with the bloom.  We may have to outsource that  activity.  It's a huge heavy plant.

It really does look like an asparagus spear.

Other than fungus and desert plants there is not too much to report. 


  1. That asparagus spear would take a bit to cook!

  2. we crept up to 90 earlier this week but now the the temps are low to mid-80s. summer comes earlier and earlier.

  3. Those agaves are hard to remove. I've had a dead one in my yard for two years because I can't get it out. They have a very deep root and are so heavy, you cannot lift it by yourself. However, the flower spike when dry makes a GREAT patio ornament!! Love the prickly pear flowers. I've never seen any of mine bloom like that!

  4. I am completely ignorant of agave, and equally awed.