In 2015, researchers reported that a heroin addict died from a fungus/mold growing within his brain and body as a result of smoking the contaminated drug.

According to UC Health, “When the patient’s autopsy report came back to the neurologists, they saw the damage:  broad ribbon-like branches of fungus extended throughout the brain tissues.

Areas of dying tissue (necrosis) and bleeding (hemorrhage) had caused the fatal brain swelling.

The fungus was identified as zygomycosis.”

Cerebral mucormycosis is a rare entity usually seen in intravenous drug users.

According to the CDC, “Mucormycosis (previously called zygomycosis) is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes. These molds live throughout the environment. Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.

It most commonly affects the sinuses or the lungs after inhaling fungal spores from the air, or the skin after the fungus enters the skin through a cut, burn, or other type of skin injury. However, it can occur in nearly any part of the body.”

How did fungi typically found in the soil (in decaying leaves, compost, or rotten wood) get into the brain of this heroin user?

“The heroin itself or needles used for injection could have been contaminated with spores,” Dr. Ferioli says.

“Then, the spores either circulated in the blood to the brain or were transported via the smoke. It’s not an uncommon fungus. But it can be devastating if it enters the blood stream, even in healthy individuals.”

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