Friday, 31 May 2013

Newsbite: Aspergillus Website Newsletter - May 2013

All the latest information in news, research for doctors, laypeople, patients, carers and vets. This is the most recent lead story:

Nearly 5 million asthmatics could benefit from antifungals
An estimated 4,837,000 asthmatics with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) could benefit substantially from antifungal treatment, say researchers from The University of Manchester and the University of Toronto.
Fungal mycorhizzal networkOn a more unexpected note it was also reported this month that fungi may somehow facilitate communication between plants! A research team from the University of Aberdeen devised an experiment to isolate and examine the effects of this underground network of fungi. Five broad bean plants were grown, with three allowed to form the network of fungus and network formation was prevented in the other two. What was observed was that if the plants were connected by mycorrhizae, the un-infested plant prepared a chemical defence against the aphids. If they were not connected, then no response was observed.

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Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Treating asthma with sunshine



Researchers have found that vitamin D, which is made by the body when in sunlight, can have a positive impact on the illness.

The latest research has show that vitamin D calms an over-active part of the immune system in asthma. Interleukin-17 is a chemical within the body that helps fight off infections. When levels of this chemical get too high it can cause problems which have been strongly implicated in asthma. The research team were able to lower levels of interleukin-17 when vitamin D was added to blood samples taken from 18 patients.

Clinical trials are now being conducted to see if by giving patients vitamin D result in easing their symptoms, focusing on those who don't respond to steroid treatment as they produce seven times more interleukin-17 than other patients.

If proof in this theory is found, there must be a careful message to asthma sufferers because too much sun is bad for you. It would be dangerous to stop applying sun cream when exposed to the sun.

This new evidence would have a large impact on the quality of life on those who suffer with asthma and current treatments have little effect.

Original story

Monday, 27 May 2013

Fungus in Capri Sun - Is it a problem?

Reports of consumers discovering mould in this drink led to a study that found five types of fungus in the drink.

Despite the discovery of the fungi in the drink, researchers have said that they probably are not harmful to most people. However, a potential health concern could be to those without a healthy immune system; such as those with AIDS, leukaemia or cystic fibrosis. We think those suffering from respiratory problems caused by fungi should also be very cautious handling these preservative free drinks.

The temperatures to which the drinks are exposed to during the manufacturing process exceed those used for pasteurization, but damage to the products' package can allow the oxygen needed for mould to grow inside the package.

Unlike many products that are common for growing moulds, consumers cannot tell when Capri Sun goes bad due to the packaging being opaque. Attempts to create clear packages were stopped after it created manufacturing problems.

Another solution to the issue would be to add preservatives to the product, which the company (Kraft) will not do because their customers do not want this. Some preservatives , such as preservative nitrate, have been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. Suggestions of adding natural preservatives, such as citric acid, have been made. However, this would change the flavour of the product making it more acidic.

This report raises an important issue for those who advocate reducing the amount of preservatives in our foods. Which is the more potentially harmful - preservative or the ensuing contamination that you may accidentally swallow? And which is likely to be the more damaging to a manufacturers profits?

Friday, 24 May 2013

Use of Aspergillus Galactomannan and PCR to Direct Treatment

Patients undergoing transplant as part of their therapy for leukemia are often at high risk of getting invasive aspergillosis (IA). Once IA is detected these patients are given antifungal drugs to protect them from infection but these drugs are expensive and can be quite toxic and difficult for the patient to tolerate so their use is kept to a minimum.
Traditionally IA in these cases is detected using a combination of culturing samples and searching for infection via miscroscope (histology). The former needs several days before it can be used to accurately identify an infecting fungus, days during which the infection gradually becomes harder to treat. There is an urgent need for more rapid and accurate diagnostic techniques to be used in these cases.

There are two tests that can give rapid results - direct detection of fungal fragments in the blood (galactomannans) and amplification of specific DNA sequences in blood samples (PCR)- both are not dependent on the immune system of the patient and are useful for cases such as these when the patients has had their immune system largely removed! Both are highly specific for the detection of fungal infection.

This study compares these two diagnostic strategies in a randomised controlled trial - one group being tested with culture & histology and the other with galactomannan & PCR. There were 120 or more patients in each group so this is a reasonable-sized study and its results are consequently more reliable.

Excitingly the use of the newer techniques led to a significant drop in the use of antifungal drugs in these patients with no drop in protection from IA. This result opens the way to detect IA more rapidly and more accurately and thus to direct the use of drugs more efficiently and effectively - this is a great step forward in the treatment of these patients.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

New Anticancer Drugs Being Developed Using Aspergillus

As the need for anticancer drugs is never ending we must continue to innovate.

Many anticancer drugs have been isolated from natural sources

Researchers spend a lot of time finding and testing many thousands of potential sources in the hope of finding more active chemicals. This was slow work so nowadays we are using computers (metagenomics) and our knowledge of chemical structures to speed up the process, testing tens of millions of new drugs at a time.

The group of researchers who wrote this paper went out and found a new isolate of Aspergillus taichungensis (a species originally found in Taiwan) and then found new ways to generate several candidates for a new antibiotic by manipulating its chemistry using light induction.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Plant Communication - The role of the Fungus network

Researchers have found that by using a network of fungi located underground, plants can communicate the onset of an aphid attack.

Known as mycorrhizae, the fungus connects most plants via an underground network. The ability of plants to communicate through the air with the use of emitted chemicals has already been documented. This new study has shown evidence of the role of mycorrhizae in communication.

A research team from the University of Aberdeen devised an experiment to isolate and examine the effects of this underground network of fungi. Five broad bean plants were grown, with three allowed to form the network of fungus and network formation was prevented in the other two.

Covering the plants in bags to prevent any through-the-air communication, the plants were then allowed to be infested with aphids. What was observed was that if the plants were connected by mycorrhizae, the un-infested plant prepared a chemical defence against the aphids. If they were not connected, then no response was observed.

In the past, scientists only though the fungi were there to provide nutrients for the plant. This new finding could be now put to use in crops that suffer from aphid damage by taking advantage of this new found signalling system.

BBC

10 Exercise Tips for Asthmatic Patients

Following these tips, living with asthma doesn't need to be so difficult and they could make your life that little bit easier.

1. Be compliant. The first step to being able to exercise with asthma is being able to have a degree of control over it. Learn your triggers and try and avoid them. See your doctor regularly and take your medications every day, not just on your bad days.

2. Follow your asthma action plan. This is a plan to help with your day to day well-being, helping you to recognise when your condition is acting up and when you may need to slow down. Perhaps use a peak flow meter to determine when you should take a day off from exercise.

3. Exercise is necessary. Exercise will make your heart and lungs stronger, and over time exercise will make you less out of breath. Even in the most severe cases of asthma, exercise is needed.

4. Choose a workout that is right for you. Find one you like and stick with it.

5. Ease yourself into it. Don't set yourself up for failure by taking too much on. Start slow and steady, building yourself up to achieving more and more.

6. Know you limits. Doing too much can do more harm than good. Be sensible about how much you take on. If your peak flows are low, take the day off exercise.

7. Don't be discouraged. Stick with your routine and be proud of yourself for achieving your goals. Don't compare yourself with someone else that may be able to do more than you.

8. Warm up. As an asthmatic, you will need twice as long on a warm up compared to a perfectly healthy person. Do plenty of stretches and start off cardio with a walk to build into a jog or run.

9. Workout in a warm temperature. Cold temperatures are likely to cause the muscles lining your respiratory tract to spasm, inducing asthma. Work out in temperatures at least 12 degrees Celsius. If it is cold outside, move your workout inside your house or a gym.

10. Pre-medication. Some asthmatics have found using their rescue inhaler before exercise keeps their asthma better in check. Ask your doctor about this to see if it could work for you.

AAAAI webpage
Tips for exercising in cold weather
More tips for asthmatics

Impact of early diagnosis and control of chronic respiratory diseases on active and healthy ageing

On 13th November 2012, a debate was held at the European Union Parliament on the impact of early diagnosis and control of chronic respiratory diseases on active and healthy ageing.

The importance of early diagnosis and management of chronic respiratory diseases to improve active and healthy ageing was stressed by MEP Claudiu Ciprian Tanasecu. Active and healthy ageing (AHA) allows those to continue to be active in society.

Allergic diseases appear early in life, caused by complex environmental factors. In many of these cases steps can be taken to prevent them. To help and improve treatment and prevention, research into the area is essential. Over 200 million people (predominantly children) suffer from asthma, and not all of the causes are understood.  It can be observed is approx. 30% of the European population. If action is not taken to try help prevent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is expected to become the third leading cause of death by 2030. The Chronic Allergy and Asthma European Network carry out surveillance of inhalant allergens and also novel allergens recently introduced into the EU framework (e.g.wheat) that has assisted EU cities to develop proactive tactical steps in counteracting new trends in pollen allergy and early alert systems for the detection of novel allergens.

Even when local authorities are not directly involved in healthcare, they should still be concerned regarding AHA. Mr Christian Bourquin of the Languedoc-Rousillon Region is leading a regional multi-sectoral partnership fighting chronic diseases.

To have a positive impact on children's development, the EU Member States and the EU Commission are invited to include chronic respiratory diseases in children in national and European health policy by early prevention, diagnosis and treatment. With one quarter of school children now affected by allergic diseases, when left untreated academic performance can drop due to the suffering from symptoms. The impact of allergens on school performance and the benefits of treatment should be investigated further.

Active smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD, therefore, smoking prevention should be the main area of focus to reduce COPD cases. Studies have shown foetal and early life developments optimize adaptation to environmental changes through plasticity, which makes tissues and organs vulnerable to environmental factors; e.g. passive smoking.

Active and healthy ageing has been identified as a major societal challenge to all European countries and remains a key challenge of ageing. Through projects helping to diagnose and treat chronic respiratory disorders across Europe (e.g. Prevention of Asthma, Prevention of Allergy and the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network) the target of achieving AHA could lead to the increase of a healthy lifespan by two years by 2020.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Mycorenewal to Save The Earth

The Amazon rainforest area in South America is an area with a huge, unique ecosystem and many thousands of unique species of plants (quotes from Wikipedia.com):
The biodiversity of plant species is the highest on Earth with some experts estimating that one square kilometer (247 acres) may contain more than a thousand types of trees and thousands of species of other higher plants. According to a 2001 study, a quarter square kilometer (62 acres) of Ecuadorian rainforest supports more than 1,100 tree species.[30]
and animals:
The region is home to about 2.5 million insect species [26] tens of thousands of plants, and some 2,000 birds and mammals. To date, at least 40,000 plant species, 2,200 fishes,[27] 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptiles have been scientifically classified in the region.[28] One in five of all the bird species in the world live in the rainforests of the Amazon, and one in five of the fish species live in Amazonian rivers and streams. Scientists have described between 96,660 and 128,843 invertebrate species in Brazil alone.[29]
Such diversity is important in itself as it represents millions of years of evolution and therefore millions of different biological 'solutions' to the question of how to live and prosper in a rainforest, but is also important in man's quest for new medicines, new foods and much much more.

It is quite well known that this part of the world is under extremes pressures thanks to the influence of man, not least to exploit its large reserves of oil. There is a lot of opposition to plans to exploit these oil reserves but some drilling has been going on for many years. Inevitably this causes pollution.

One solution suggested to remove this pollution is the use of fungi.



Amazon Mycorenewal in association with the Cloud Forest Institute have set out to more fully investigate this possibility. As part of this project they are presenting a 10 day workshop on methods of mycorenewal entitles the Art and Science of Mycorenewal at Santa Cruz, California, USA.

More on soil mycoremediation (Fungi for the people)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

5 Million People With ABPA Worldwide


Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) complicates asthma and may lead to
chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) yet global burdens of each have never been estimated.

Antifungal therapy has a place in the management of ABPA and is the cornerstone of treatment in CPA, reducing morbidity and probably mortality. We used the country-specific prevalence of asthma from the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) report applied to population estimates to calculate adult asthma cases. From five referral cohorts (China, Ireland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and South Africa), we estimated the prevalence of ABPA in adults with asthma at 2.5% .

In ABPA case series, pulmonary cavitation occurred in 10%, allowing an estimate of CPA prevalence worldwide of 193 million adults.

With active asthma worldwide, we estimate that 4,837,000 patients develop ABPA.

By WHO region, the ABPA burden estimates are:

  • Europe, 1,062,000; 
  • Americas, 1,461,000; 
  • Eastern Mediterranean, 351,000; 
  • Africa, 389,900; 
  • Western Pacific, 823,200; 
  • South East Asia, 720,400. 


We calculate a global case burden of CPA complicating ABPA of 411,100 at a 10% rate with a 15% annual attrition.

The global burden of ABPA potentially exceeds 4.8 million people and of CPA complicating ABPA ˜ 400,000, which is more common than previously appreciated. Both conditions respond to antifungal therapy justifying improved case detection.

Prospective population and clinical cohort studies are warranted to more precisely ascertain the frequency of ABPA and CPA in different locations and ethnic groups and validate the model inputs.

Original paper read here

Lotto Workers Sickened by Mould

Thousands of scratch cards that had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy have been sitting in a warehouse for six months. The result was ideal growth conditions for Aspergillus, Stachybotrys and Penicillium.

Employees were required to process and account for each pack of damaged tickets. Time spent in the warehouse led to complaints of headaches and respiratory problems. Despite being equipped with gloves, protective suits and masks, the employees were not provided with respirators due to the decision being made over a technical issue that the workers may not be able to safely operate it without special training.

Even though workers expressed their concerns, no action was taken and was left to a worker taking a sample to be tested themselves; through which came a result positive for Aspergillus, Stachybotrys and Penicillium.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website states symptoms related to excessive mold exposure include asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and allergies.

The hazard of moulds developing from damaging from Sandy seem to be occurring elsewhere, which mould removal companies are carefully dealing with.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Discovery of the Double Helix

Nature is publishing a series of weekly podcasts featuring highlighted content from the weeks edition of Nature, including interviews with those involved behind the science.

This week highlights the discovery of the DNA double helix and the people behind such a great discovery.

Using a paperclip, Raymond Gosling was able to analyse the structure of DNA that led to further scientific discoveries such as the specific paring in the rungs of the DNA structure were the key to the mechanism of inheritance.

Without this discovery there could never have been any of the recent advances in genome research which take us so far forward in improving the diagnosis and treatment of aspergillosis by understanding the fungus and its genes in depth.

Listen to the podcast here:



For weekly podcasts and further information on the landmark discoveries visit go.nature.com/lizfik

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