CDC Study Finds Cannabis Users Have Higher Risk of Fungal Infection

Although the study found cannabis users are 3.5 times more likely to experience fungal infections than non-smokers, it still concluded that the actual risk was "extremely low".

A new study published by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which expands on previous research undertaken in Colorado and California—claims that legal cannabis may be inadvertently contaminated with pesticides and mould, posing a potential health risk to consumers.

Researchers from the CDC examined health data taken from more than 27 million people in an IBM database, in an attempt to isolate a link between cannabis use and fungal infections.

Cannabis can contain fungal pathogens that cause serious and often fatal infections in persons with immunocompromising conditions, such as cancer, transplant, or infection with HIV. In these patients, some reasons for using cannabis include pain and nausea relief and appetite stimulation. The frequency of fungal infections associated with cannabis is unknown but is a growing concern as more states legalize its medicinal and recreational use. Cannabis Use and Fungal Infections in a Commercially Insured Population

After sifting through the data, CDC researchers managed to identify 40 individuals—out of more than 53,000—who developed a fungal infection while using cannabis during 2016. This accounts for less than 0.07% of the test group, which indicates that risk of developing fungal infections from cannabis use is actually extremely low.

The study found that cannabis users were roughly 3.5 times more likely to experience fungal infections when compared to the non-cannabis smoking population, although this may be because approximately 60% of respondents elected to smoke marijuana on a regular basis, which can increase general susceptibility to illness.

In fact, 43% of the cannabis users surveyed who experienced fungal infections were also found to be immunocompromised. Additionally, study noted that cannabis users who suffered from fungal infections tended to be younger than non-cannabis users, with a median age of 41.5 versus 56 years, respectively.

"In this large commercially insured population in the United States, cannabis use was associated with a higher prevalence of certain fungal infections," the research report stated.

"Although these infections were uncommon, they can result in substantial illness and even death, particularly in immunocompromised persons."

However, the researchers also admitted there were significant issues with the study's methodology, which may mean the insights gleaned from it are nothing more than baseless speculation at best.

One key issue is that the study relied on self-reported claims, which have the potential to significantly skew data.

More glaringly, the researchers also acknowledged that they were unable to determine the source of the respondent's fungal infections, which means that its effectively impossible to determine if they were caused by cannabis use.

Despite this, the study's authors remain firm in their belief that smoking cannabis poses an unacceptable risk to the public, as research has shown that cannabis plants are nominally more susceptible to fungus and mould growth.

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Hugo Gray
Hugo Gray

Hugo Gray is a Melbourne-based journalist with a body of work that covers a diverse range of topics, including immigration law, sex technology, and now the rapidly expanding cannabis industry.

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