Tuesday June 18, 2019

Fatal Fungal Infection Weakens the Immune System- Study

Researchers have now discovered how the fungus knocks out the immune defences.

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Fungus, Immune System
Fungus knocks out the immune defences, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop. Pixabay

While, healthy people usually have no problem if microorganisms find their way into their bodies as their immune defence system will put the spores out of action, a specific type of fungus can threaten lives with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients or who are immunosuppressed following an organ transplantation, says a new study.

Researchers have now discovered how the fungus — Aspergillus fumigatus — knocks out the immune defences, enabling a potentially fatal fungal infection to develop.

Fungus, Immune System
A specific type of fungus can threaten lives with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients. Pixabay

Among other factors, it is gliotoxin — a potent mycotoxin — that is responsible for the pathogenicity of Aspergillus fumigatus.

Pathogenicity refers to the ability of an organism to cause disease.

“It was known that this substance has an immunosuppressive effect, which means that it weakens the activity of cells of the immune defence system. However, it had not been clear previously how exactly this happens,” said Oliver Werz, Professor at the University of Jena in Germany.

To achieve this, they brought immune cells into contact with synthetically produced gliotoxin. These cells — neutrophilic granulocytes — represent the first line of the immune defence system.

Fungus, Immune System
Fungus can impair the immune system. Pixabay

Their task is to detect pathogens and eliminate them. As soon as such a cell comes into contact with a pathogen, for example a fungus, it releases specific messenger substances (leukotrienes) into the blood, which attract other immune cells. Once a sufficiently large number of immune cells has gathered, they can render the intruder harmless, findings showed, published in the journal, Cell Chemical Biology.

This does not happen if the pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus is involved. Gliotoxin ensures that production of the messenger substance leukotrieneB4 in the neutrophilic granulocytes is inhibited, so that they are unable to send a signal to other immune cells. This is caused by a specific enzyme (LTA4 hydrolase) being switched off by the mycotoxin.

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“This interrupts communication between the immune cells and destroys the defence mechanism. As a result, it is easy for spores – in this case the fungus – that enter the organism to infiltrate tissues or organs,” said Werz. (IANS)

Next Story

Scientists Find Gold-Studded Fungus in Western Australia

Researchers believe the fungus is an indicator of gold deposits and hope the discovery will help miners.

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FILE - A miner looks across the largest open pit gold mine in Australia called the Fimiston Open Pit, also known as the Super Pit, in the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie, located around 500 kilometres east of Perth, July 27, 2001. VOA

A fluffy pink fungus that decorates itself with gold nanoparticles has been found in Western Australia. Researchers believe the fungus is an indicator of gold deposits and hope the discovery will help miners narrow down where to dig.

Scientists in Australia have found a fungus that can bond with gold particles. It releases a chemical called superoxide that can dissolve gold in the soil. It is then able to mix this dissolved metal with another chemical to turn it back into solid gold, in the form of tiny nanoparticles.

So why does this gold-loving fungus have an attraction to this precious metal? The research team believes by interacting with gold in this way it can grow faster and bigger relative to other fungi that do not.

The research has been carried out by Australia’s national science agency.

Scientists, Gold-Studded, Fungus
A fluffy pink fungus that decorates itself with gold nanoparticles has been found. VOA

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the CSIRO, believes the discovery could be a new way to mine gold. The fungi could be markers that indicate the presence of gold, and narrow down the area where exploratory drilling would be most beneficial.

The study’s author is Dr. Tsing Bohu, a CSIRO geo-microbiologist.

“I think this is probably very novel because gold is very inert generally speaking but we found actually this fungus can interact with gold by dissolving gold. So I think it is very novel and it is also very important for mining and other industrial [processes] like leaching, so [it] has some potential applications,” he said.

The fungus was found in soil at Boddington, 130 kilometers south-east of Perth in Western Australia.

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The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Australia is the world’s second-largest producer of gold, but its output is expected to fall unless more deposits are discovered.

In recent weeks, two Australians have stumbled upon large gold nuggets worth tens of thousands of dollars in Western Australia and the state of Victoria. (VOA)