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European research effort FUMINOMICS tackles dangerous mould

Ubiquitous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus poses an increasing threat to patients with compromised immune systems

The European Science Foundation (ESF) has launched a new Research Networking Programme, FUMINOMICS, to study the basic genetic and molecular mechanisms employed by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus when infecting host cells.

Infection with A. fumigatus is an increasing clinical problem and often has lethal consequences for patients with a compromised immune system. The four-year FUMINOMICS programme is supported by 7 contributing ESF member organisations* and involves most of the leading laboratories from several European countries. FUMINOMICS will be kicked-off with the workshop 'Transcriptomics and Molecular Tools' from 18-21 September in Giens, France.

Aspergillus fumigatus, a member of the large Aspergillus family of filamentous fungi (moulds), is an ubiquitous mould that lives in the soil and on plant debris and disperses its spores through the air. The mould is harmless to most people, but for those with a seriously diminished immune system, infection with A. fumigatus can be fatal. The group most at risk are people who have undergone organ (bone marrow) transplants and cancer treatment.

In this group, infection with A. fumigatus is often lethal, with mortality rates of 60-90% and occurs in 25 % of haematology patients. Diagnosis of invasive disease caused by A. fumigatus is difficult (it is often mistaken for pneumonia), as is the treatment of this type of infection.

Currently, A. fumigatus is already the most common cause of (clinical) mould infections worldwide. Harmless as the mould may be for persons with a normal defence system, there are still many cases known in which infections with A. fumigatus resulted in severe disease or even death in healthy individuals.

Until now, little is known of how A. fumigatus operates when infecting host cells. Considering the increasing clinical impact of the mould, fundamental research into its basic genetic mechanism is urgently needed. The ESF Research Networking Programme FUMINOMICS will tackle the basic questions surrounding gene expression and gene regulation of A. fumigatus through a multidisciplinary and fully integrated functional genomics approach that spans bioinformatics, transcriptomics, proteomics, physiology, molecular genetics and medicine.

Thomas Lau | alfa
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