13-year-old's science fair project finds fungus in the environment
Researchers have pinpointed the environmental source of fungal infections that have been sickening HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California for decades. It literally grows on trees.
This false-color electron microscope image catches the fungus Cryptococcus gattii in the act of producing its infectious spores. The club-shaped blue structure is a reproductive organ called the basidium, which projects off the fungus body like an apple off a tree. The spores are colored yellow, and are like seeds that can give rise to a new organism.
Credit: Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, Duke University
The discovery is based on the science project of a 13-year-old girl, who spent the summer gathering soil and tree samples from areas around Los Angeles hardest hit by infections of the fungus named Cryptococcus gattii (CRIP-to-cock-us GAT-ee-eye).
Cryptococcus, which encompasses a number of species including C. gattii, causes life-threatening infections of the lungs and brain and is responsible for one third of all AIDS-related deaths.
The study, which appears Aug. 21 in PLOS Pathogens, found strong genetic evidence that three tree species -- Canary Island pine, Pohutukawa and American sweetgum -- can serve as environmental hosts and sources of these human infections.
"Just as people who travel to South America are told to be careful about drinking the water, people who visit other areas like California, the Pacific Northwest and Oregon need to be aware that they are at risk for developing a fungal infection, especially if their immune system is compromised," said Deborah J. Springer, Ph.D., lead study author and postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis at Duke University School of Medicine.
A few years ago, Duke's chairman of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Joseph Heitman M.D., was contacted by longtime collaborator and UCLA infectious disease specialist Scott Filler, M.D., whose daughter Elan was looking for a project to work on during her summer break. They decided it would be fun to send her out in search of fungi living in the greater Los Angeles area.
The student sampled 109 swabs of more than 30 tree species and 58 soil samples, grew and isolated the Cryptococcus fungus, and then sent those specimens to Springer at Duke. Springer DNA-sequenced the samples from California and compared the sequences to those obtained from HIV/AIDS patients with C. gattii infections.
She was surprised to find that specimens from three of the tree species were genetically almost indistinguishable from the patient specimens.
The researchers also found that the C. gattii isolated from the environment were fertile, reproducing either by sexual or asexual reproduction.
"That finding is important for long-term prevalence in the environment, because this fungal pathogen will be able to grow, reproduce, disperse spores, and serve as a source of ongoing infections," Springer said.
"Cryptococcus gattii VGIII isolates causing infections in HIV/AIDS patients in Southern California: Identification of the local environmental source as arboreal," Deborah J. Springer, R. Blake Billmyre, Elan E. Filler, Kerstin Voelz, Rhiannon Pursal, Piotr Mieczkowski, Robert A. Larsen, Fred S. Dietrich, Robin C. Mary, Scott G. Filler, and Joseph Heitman. PLOS Pathogens, August. 21, 2014.
Karl Bates | Eurek Alert!
20.11.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis
Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity
20.11.2017 | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences
20.11.2017 | Life Sciences