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 A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Early organic carbon got deep burial in mantle

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

A room with a view - or how cultural differences matter in room size perception

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Warm winds: New insight into what weakens Antarctic ice shelves

25.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>