Fungal biofilm morphology impacts disease progression

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Researchers at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine (NH, USA) have identified a hypoxia-typic morphotype of the fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus that was linked to rapid disease progression in mouse models of invasive aspergillosis.

Fungi are able to grow in lung lesions within the airways. Previously, Robert Cramer, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Geisel, demonstrated that these regions are very low in oxygen. The current study built on this finding to discover a specific mutation that helps the fungi to grow in these harsh conditions. In addition, microscopy techniques revealed that pathogens expressing hypoxia-linked alleles had a distinct structure.

Upon exposing A. fumigatus to low oxygen conditions, the team screened for alleles linked to survival in hypoxic regions. In a murine model of invasive aspergillosis, they noticed that a fungal strain harboring a specific mutation caused increased host inflammation and more rapid progression of disease.

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