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Infectious Disease

Cryptococcosis Spreading Infection

2 years ago

3594  0
Posted on May 01, 2018, 4 p.m.

A unique mechanism that drives deadly infection spread has been discovered by scientists from the University of Birmingham.


Cryptococcosis is a deadly but rare fungal infection which affects the brain and lungs that typically only occurs in individuals with impaired immunity. One of its strains of Cryptococcus gattii the Pacific Northwest strain has gained the ability to infect healthy individuals.

Cryptococcus gattii was considered to be primarily a tropical fungus found in places like Australia, New Guinea, and Brazil, but it was found to be the cause of the outbreak in USA and Canada that began in 1999 infecting hundreds of animals and humans.


The lungs are infected first as it is acquired by fungal spore inhalation. WIthout treatment and even sometimes despite it the infection spreads quickly to the brain and other organs that can often have fatal consequences. Infected patients must undergo antifungal drug therapy, those drugs often fail to cure the disease and instead surgery is required to remove infection from lungs and central nervous system.


It is most vital to develop new drugs to combat this disease,  in order to do this more research must be done to discover how the disease spreads. Research has demonstrated the high virulence of the Cryptococcus gattii strain resulting from ability to grow rapidly within white blood cells that relies on division of labor mechanism within infection. To achieve this individual fungal cells work together to coordinate behavior, which up to this point were unknown.


It was discovered division of labor can be triggered over vast cellular distances and is mediated through release of microscopic extracellular vesicle fluid filled bags, which act like carriers to transfer messages between fungi helping to coordinate attack on host cell.


Research is still in early stages and is ongoing, but the team can already envisage developing drugs which interrupt the fungi signalling pathway to confuse them and prevent spread of disease in the patient.


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