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Scientists warn of 'global health catastrophe' that could be looming on the horizon: 'The imminent threat here is not about zombies'

"We're already seeing massive crop losses …"

"We're already seeing massive crop losses …"

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Scientists are warning that a "global health catastrophe" could be around the corner after an uptick in certain types of fungal attacks.

What's happening?

The Guardian reported that the spread of crop-destroying fungal diseases is projected to get even worse as rising global temperatures allow the infections to thrive in traditionally colder northern climates, while more frequent extreme weather may increase the range of the resilient pathogens.

This could lead to a worldwide food shortage.

"We are warning that we could see a global health catastrophe caused by the rapid global spread of fungal infections. The imminent threat here is not about zombies, but about global starvation," said Sarah Gurr, a professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, referring to the Emmy-winning show The Last of Us

Fungal pathogens have reportedly been migrating north at a rate of 4.5 miles each year since the 1990s. 

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. 

Why is this concerning?

While elements of fungi and certain fungi are beneficial, fungal infections are the "biggest destroyer" of crops by a wide margin, as reported by The Guardian, which noted that around 10 to 23% were ruined by such types of disease.  

"We're already seeing massive crop losses to fungal infection. … This worrying trend may only worsen with a warming world," Eva Stukenbrock, a co-author of the study and professor at Germany's University of Kiel, told the news outlet. 

The overheating of our planet has already led to the disruption of other major food sources, including seafood — which more than three billion people depend on for essential sustenance. 

In addition to hunger, a further shake-up to the supply chain could lead to increased conflicts and displacement

There are 7.6 billion people in the world, according to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, but that number is expected to grow to 11.2 billion by 2100. 

What's being done about fungi pathogens?

Scientists have been working on a variety of solutions to make crops more resilient, though they told The Guardian that their fungal pathogen research needed significantly more funding.

The news outlet wrote that scientists have experimented with "planting seed mixtures that carry a range of genes that are resistant to fungal infection," while one unrelated study stated that the superfood quinoa could be modified to protect against certain pests and diseases, which could help prevent widespread hunger.

Other possibilities cited by The Guardian include the use of technology, such as drones and artificial intelligence, to find and halt fungal infections more quickly. 

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