Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold hard to kill

We all breathe into our lungs thousands of fungal spores every single day and among them we encounter Aspergillus fumigatus spores. Fortunately our immune system is extremely good at killing these spores. However, if the individual’s immune system is not working properly Aspergillus fumigatus can survive and become life-threatening.

Unfortunately there are few anti-fungal drugs available to treat this killing machine and understanding of how they work is a limited.

Using advanced time-lapse microscopy I have been studying the main cellular adaptations that allows Aspergillus fumigatus to overcome the attack of caspofungin, a commonly used anti-fungal drug.

My research will provide a better understanding of the way in which caspofungin works in inhibiting Aspergillus fumigatus growth and infection. And this might provide new insights into how the design of novel anti-fungal drugs might be improved.

Sergio Valasquez works in Professor Nick Read's lab at the University of Manchester.

Detecting and Destroying Fungi with Antibodies

Every year more than one million people die from a fungal infection. This figure is higher than the number of lives taken by malaria and almost as many as those claimed by HIV or tuberculosis. To make a difference in this area we urgently need to address two key issues.

First of all, we need to diagnose fungal infections more accurately and earlier on during the course of disease as we know that every day we fail to make an accurate diagnosis, we lose more and more of our patients.

Secondly, we need to develop the first vaccines for fungal infection and get them into the clinic and develop new antifungal drugs which are more effective at treating and killing the fungus and have fewer side effects.

With these in mind, my research project focuses on developing antibodies which have been cloned from the DNA taken directly from human antibody producing cells. therefore making them more compatible with our own immune systems.

These antibodies have great potential to make a huge impact in the way we diagnose and treat fungal infections in the future, ultimately improving patient quality of life and saving more lives.

Dr Fiona Rudkin works in Professor Neil Gow's lab at the University of Aberdeen.