From the website of Duke University:
Researchers have pinpointed the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California for decades. It literally grows on trees. The discovery is based on the science project of a 13-year-old girl, who spent the summer gathering soil and tree samples from areas around Los Angeles hardest hit by infections of the fungus named Cryptococcus gattii (CRIP-to-cock-us GAT-ee-eye). Cryptococcus, which encompasses a number of species including C. gattii, causes life-threatening infections of the lungs and brain and is responsible for one third of all AIDS-related deaths. The student sampled 109 swabs of more than 30 tree species and 58 soil samples, grew and isolated the Cryptococcus fungus, and then sent those specimens to Springer at Duke. Springer DNA-sequenced the samples from California and compared the sequences to those obtained from HIV/AIDS patients with C. gattii infections. She was surprised to find that specimens from three of the tree species were genetically almost indistinguishable from the patient specimens. The researchers also found that the C. gattii isolated from the environment were fertile, reproducing either by sexual or asexual reproduction.
Her name is Elan Filler. (Tipped by JMG reader Ray)