Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fungi the cause of many outbreaks of disease but mostly ignored

03.07.2008
Report calls for new resources for studying fungi that impact human health and agriculture

Fungi can cause a number of life-threatening diseases but they also are becoming increasingly useful to science and manufacturing every year. However, many people, scientists among them, are largely unaware of the roles fungi play in the world around us.

Research on fungi and fungal diseases are seriously neglected as a result – a situation with grave negative repercussions for human health, agriculture, and the environment-- according to The Fungal Kingdom: Diverse and Essential Roles in Earth's Ecosystem, a new report from the American Academy of Microbiology.

The report is the product of a colloquium convened by the Academy in November, 2007, where experts in mycology, medicine, plant pathogens, and ecology discussed the current state of research in mycology and compiled a list of specific recommendations for future work.

"The average person is at risk for several fungal diseases, from toenail infections to athlete's foot to life threatening systemic infections," says Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and one of the co-chairs of the colloquium. "Fungi may also predispose people to asthma and allergic diseases," says Casadevall. Despite the frequency of fungal infections, according to the report they are relatively understudied, making fungal infections difficult to diagnose and treat. When faced with an undiagnosed fungal infection, doctors are forced to treat their patient without a firm grasp of which drugs will work and which drugs will only cost the patient valuable time.

But fungi are more than just a medical problem: as the cause of more than half of all plant diseases, fungi are also an expensive drain on agriculture. The economic repercussions of managing fungal pathogens on crops – the money and effort spent, the numerous pesticide applications, the consequences of these applications for surface water and soil quality, and the impacts on crop yields – are extraordinary.

In the environment, fungi are not seen as a liability but as an integral part of their ecosystems They break down dead plants and animals (organic matter) into the building blocks plants need for growth and they engage in beneficial symbiotic relationships with plants, all functions necessary for maintaining healthy ecosystems. When an ecosystem is disturbed, fungi can behave in unexpected and often destructive ways, as in the case of the black mold that is overrunning the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine and outbreaks of coral bleaching that are destroying coral reefs. Scientists still do not understand fungi well enough to predict how these organisms will behave when their environment is disturbed.

Industry and food manufacturing benefit in many ways from the work fungi do. "Fungi are workhorses for research and biotechnology," according to Joseph Heitman of the Duke University Medical Center, the other co-chair of the colloquium. "Both the hepatitis B vaccine and Gardasil (the vaccine for papilloma virus) are produced in yeast," he notes.

The importance of fungi to human health, agriculture, the environment, and industry demands that we gain a better understanding of these organisms. Some of the report's key recommendations include:

Evaluate the Impacts of Mold in Homes and Businesses

There is a serious lack of scientific data to support any stance with respect to indoor mold toxicity or remediation. More effort should be devoted to testing and long-term monitoring of mold contamination and human health in New Orleans and other areas flooded by Hurricane Katrina. Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina provide natural laboratories for understanding how fungi respond to disturbance and the subsequent impacts they have on human health.

Create a Fungal Genomes Database

Researchers involved with fungi must focus efforts on developing a comprehensive fungal genomics database in order to make the vast quantities of sequence data more available and to enable the field to fully capitalize on the promise of genomics.

Report and Track Fungal Infections

Public health agencies should implement formal programs to report cases, track disease progress, and design interventions in outbreaks of fungal disease. The lack of reporting and tracking systems has made it difficult to control the spread of fungal pathogens, because good epidemiological data on the scope of infection is usually not available.

Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asmusa.org
http://www.asm.org/colloquia/ext
http://www.asm.org

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New study points the way to therapy for rare cancer that targets the young
22.11.2017 | Rockefeller University

nachricht Penn study identifies new malaria parasites in wild bonobos
21.11.2017 | University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

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...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

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...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

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....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

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,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>