is a relatively common yeast-like fungus present in soil and
certain trees, yet some strains of it can cause a disease which is
fatal to patients with weakened immune systems, in particular those
with HIV or Aids, where it affects one in ten patients.
Now researchers at the University of Birmingham are gleaning new
insights into this deadly fungal disease, by studying the life
cycle of a microscopic worm known as a nematode, and examining its
interaction with the Cryptococcus fungus.
The research, which has just been published, showed that
different strains of the worm had a different lifespan and there
was a direct link between that lifespan and their resistance to the
fungus; worms with a longer lifespan survived the Cryptococcus
infection for longer, pointing to a stronger immune response.
They also discovered that the sex of the nematode worm played a
role in its ability to resist Cryptococcus fungus, and that this
could be turned on and off by changing the pathways that dictate
the worm’s sex.
Now they are examining the action of the fungus on human defence
cells (macrophages) to learn more about its affect on people.
A clearer understanding of the basic biology of the fungus will
lead to a better understanding of its fatal impact on humans, and
hopefully to ways of reducing people’s risk of infection to
what, particularly in developing countries, is a major cause of
death in patients with immune deficiencies.
- Laboratory GVs
- Nematode Worms through microscope
- Microphage cells through microscope
- Time lapse of fungus growing
- Professor Mark Pallen, Professor of Microbial Genomics,
University of Birmingham