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Drug-Resistant Yeast ‘Candida Auris’ Found In Apples Purchased From Delhi Market

Apples and other fruits treated with fungicides can host drug-resistant, pathogenic yeasts

Apples treated with fungicides could be a selective force for drug-resistant Candida auris and help it to spread, suggest researchers.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Updated : April 1, 2022 4:31 PM IST

An apple a day keeps the doctor away! Scientific evidence also supports this old English proverb. But make sure the apple you're eating is free of drug-resistant, pathogenic yeasts.

Today, fungicides are extensively used to prolong shelf life of fruits. Long-term exposure to such substances has been linked to adverse health effects including allergic reactions, skin and eye irritation, neural and visual disturbances. Now, a new study has cautioned that apples and other fruits treated with fungicides can host drug-resistant, pathogenic yeasts on surfaces and boost transmission.

The researchers found Candida auris, a drug-resistant pathogenic yeast, in stored apples collected from a market in Delhi.

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Candida auris spreads quickly in hospitals and has been isolated from nature, said mycologist Anuradha Chowdhary, M.D., Ph.D, at the University of Delhi. She cautioned that fungicides used in agriculture may inadvertently select the drug resistant fungi.

The group also found other Candida strains on the packed apples.

C. auris not found in freshly picked apples

Chowdhary and her collaborators screened the surfaces of 84 fruits for pathogenic C. auris and other yeasts. These included 62 apples -- 20 picked in orchards and 42 purchased from a market in Delhi. Each fruit species hosted at least 1 type of yeast.

Concerningly, they found drug-resistant strains of C. auris on a total of 8 apples that had been stored before purchase. The apples included 5 'Red Delicious' and 3 'Royal Gala' varieties. But none of the freshly picked apples hosted C. auris, they said.

C. auris, which is known to be resistant to many drugs, was first identified in 2009 in Japan. It has now spread to all inhabited continents, but researchers are still unable to understand how the pathogen originates and spreads.

Microbiologist Jianping Xu, Ph.D, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, who co-led the study with Chowdhary, said that they still don't really understand what drives the simultaneous emergence of multiple distinct genetic clusters of C. auris.

C. auris was first isolated from a natural environment, the marshes and sandy beaches of a natural coastal ecosystem in the Andaman Islands, India. The study, also led by Chowdhary and Xu, was published last year in mBio last year.

Apples may help the drug-resistant pathogen to spread?

Based on the findings, the researchers suggested the apples could be a selective force for C. auris and help it to spread.

However, Xu pointed out that the spread of C. auris is not an Indian-specific phenomenon, but a global menace.

In 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified C. auris as 1 of 5 pathogens that pose an urgent threat to public health worldwide.

The researchers noted that in order to respond to the pathogen's threat to humans, it is important to know how it travels through other natural systems.

"When we look at human pathogens, we tend to look at what's immediate to us. But we have to look at it more broadly. Everything is connected, the whole system. Fruit is just 1 example," Xu said, as quoted by Science Daily.

Their study paper was recently published in mBio, an open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Also read how to reduce exposure to pesticides in fruits, vegetables here:

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