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Gardening: The lethal fungi that may be in your garden
About the author: 

If you enjoy pottering around your garden, be warned that there's one simple routine task that could be fatal

If you enjoy pottering around your garden, be warned that there's one simple routine task that could be fatal. It's recently killed one gardener, and the doctors who treated him are concerned that too few of us know about the danger that may be in many of our gardens.

The gardener's wife recalls he was clearing away rotting tree and plant mulch when he was suddenly engulfed in clouds of 'dust'. Within five days, he had died in his local hospital's intensive care unit.

He had inadvertently disturbed aspergillus spores, which are often found on decaying plants. These spores can be deadly - depending on the individual's own health and immune system - and can cause fatal heart and lung reactions.

The gardener concerned seemed to be in reasonable health for his 47 years, although he smoked 10 cigarettes a day and he worked as a welder, which together may have compromised his lungs.

If you do accidentally breathe in aspergillus spores, immediate treatment with an intravenous antifungal is vital, and doctors at Wycombe Hospital in the UK who tried to save the life of the gardener believe he may have been saved had they given him voriconazole instead of liposomal amphotericin B, which their hospital trust was recommending at the time.

(Source: The Lancet, 2008; 371: 2056).


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