Can Silver Leaf Fungus Infect People?

Medically Reviewed on 4/4/2023
Silver Leaf Fungus
Silver leaf disease is caused by the plant pathogen Chondrostereum purpureum.

Silver leaf fungus can infect people. A 61-year-old man was recently reported to have been infected with Chondrostereum purpureum, the fungus that causes silver leaf disease in plants, in the first reported case of its kind in India. This is a rare example of a plant pathogen crossing over into humans.

What is silver leaf fungus?

Silver leaf fungus is a plant pathogen that affects various types of trees and shrubs, such as fruit trees, poplars, and willows.

Although silver leaf fungus is not known to directly infect humans, some evidence suggests that exposure to the spores or fungus itself may cause health issues in people with weakened immune systems. In particular, studies have reported that inhalation of the spores can cause respiratory problems in individuals with underlying lung conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, there have been some reports of skin and eye irritation in people who came in contact with the fungus or its spores.

If you have concerns about exposure to silver leaf fungus, take precautions to avoid contact with the fungus, such as wearing gloves and a mask when handling infected plant material and seeking medical attention if you experience any symptoms after exposure.

What are the potential causes of silver leaf disease in humans?

Silver leaf disease is caused by the plant pathogen Chondrostereum purpureum (silver leaf fungus).

Potential causes of silver leaf disease in humans may include:

  • Adaptability: Researchers have discovered that only a few hundred types of fungi, out of the million present in the environment, are capable of infecting humans and animals. Fungal species that can thrive in the human body's temperature range of 35°C to 37°C can become human pathogens or commensal flora. These pathogens typically invade the body through damaged skin and the respiratory tract and generally cause infections in individuals with compromised immune systems.
  • Global warming: Scientists are concerned that as the planet experiences climate change (global warming), known and unknown fungi may emerge as potential threats by adapting to survive in the hotter conditions.
  • Occupation such as plant mycologist: Recent evidence shows people can get sick from this plant pathogen when working with molds, yeast, and mushrooms.
  • Immunocompromised people: People deemed most at risk of fungal infections known to jump species, such as those with cancer, HIV, respiratory diseases, and organ transplants.

However, there is no cause for alarm, and experts stress that more research is needed to understand how these fungi can affect humans and animals.

What are the possible symptoms of silver leaf disease (Chondrostereum purpureum)?

There is limited information on the signs and symptoms of Chondrostereum purpureum infection (silver leaf disease) in humans. However, in a first-of-its-kind case, a fungal disease caused flu-like symptoms in a plant mycologist from India. This is a rare occurrence, and human infections caused by plant pathogens are uncommon.

Possible signs and symptoms of silver leaf disease or Chondrostereum purpureum infection include:

What are the symptoms of fungus in the body?

In general, fungal infections caused by different fungi can exhibit a wide range of symptoms depending on the type of fungus involved and the location of the infection in the body.

Some common signs and symptoms of fungal infections in humans include:

Seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare provider if you suspect that you may have a fungal infection.


Bowel regularity means a bowel movement every day. See Answer

How is silver leaf disease (Chondrostereum purpureum) diagnosed in humans?

Currently, there is no standardized method to diagnose silver leaf disease or Chondrostereum purpureum infection in humans; however, diagnosis of the infection in humans can be made by using a combination of various symptoms and tests that include:

In the rare case of human exposure, silver leaf disease or Chondrostereum purpureum infection was diagnosed by draining paratracheal abscess. A CT scan of the neck showed an abscess, which was then sampled and sent for analysis. DNA analysis confirmed human infection of silver leaf fungus or Chondrostereum purpureum.

A paratracheal abscess is often accompanied by fever, sore throat, odynophagia (painful swallowing), and swelling in the neck down to the hyoid bone. Paratracheal abscesses can block airways and lead to life-threatening infections if not caught and treated quickly.

How is silver leaf disease (Chondrostereum purpureum) treated in humans?

To treat fungal infections, a multimodal approach with supportive care is necessary. In addition to proper antifungal therapy, it's important to surgically remove any pus and take steps to prevent exposure and reverse risk factors.

Given the rarity of this fungus and its potential for recurrence and morbidity, people should undergo the following:

  • Surgical drainage of the abscess
  • Long-term oral antifungal therapy
  • Regular follow-up appointments to detect any signs of recurrence

Oral broad-spectrum antifungal medications that are safe and easily tolerated by people are recommended. Infection with this fungus in humans is extremely rare, with only one reported case documented in the medical literature.

Medically Reviewed on 4/4/2023
Image Source: iStock images

World's first case: Kolkata man infected by deadly plant fungus.

Paratracheal abscess by plant fungus Chondrostereum purpureum- first case report of human infection:

P187 Paratracheal abscess by plant fungus Chondrostereum purpureum. First case report of human infection: