A Rhode Island man has become one of 120 people to ever suffer from black fungus on the brain – and it's all because he scraped his elbow.
Tyson Bottenus, of Providence, had been backpacking in Costa Rica back in 2018 while celebrating his engagement to fiancé Liza. Things were going swimmingly in Nicoya Peninsula, until he took a fall while cycling along some dusty roads.
He tumbled to the ground and scraped his elbow. Of course, he quickly cleaned himself up and even visited the local hospital to make sure everything was okay. His wound was sterilised, and like most people, he believed that was the end of it.
Over the next few months, Bottenus wasn't very well. He was struggling with migraines – so much so he was 'abusing Advil' to soothe the pain – as well as partial facial paralysis, and he even underwent three brain biopsies. In an extraordinary stroke of terrible luck, his fall on holiday actually left him him with Cladophialophora bantiana, also known as 'black mould'.
According to United States National Library of Medicine, there's been 120 known cases of Bottenus's condition – and apart from him, everyone appears to have died as a result, and 'long-term survival from cerebral black mould abscesses has been reported only when complete surgical resection was possible'.
'I have not encountered anyone else who has this... everyone else I believe, who has this fungus, is dead unfortunately,' he told the MailOnline.
Due to the condition being so rare, doctors struggled to give Bottenus a diagnosis at first. However, after the third brain biopsy, samples were sent to a lab in Texas that managed to identify his condition.
'[Doctors] could literally see the fungus growing in my head. That was great to figure that out, but it's not great that I have fungus in my head. How do I get this fungus out? We're not supposed to have fungus in our heads,' he said.
While it's highly speculated that the fungus came from his fall in Costa Rica, doctors said he could have inhaled dirt and dust while backpacking, and there's also the chance he picked it up somewhere else.
His long-term prognosis isn't clear, with doctors still trying to figure out how to treat the growth, given the mortality rate stands at up to 65%. It's also unclear whether the fungus is still growing.
'I know the fungus likes to inhabit my ventricles because it's dark and wet inside there, but I don't know if it's growing or shrinking,' he said.
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