Deadly fungal infection a concern in post-COVID-19, flu patients CTV News – CTV News Calgary IG News

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While the fungus isn’t about to start turning mankind into zombies, like in the HBO blockbuster series last of usThe World Health Organization (WHO) states that invasive fungal infections are a growing threat to human health.

Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that is common in our environment but, under certain circumstances, it can be fatal. On an average day, most of us will ingest hundreds to thousands of Aspergillus spores without any adverse effects, but for people with weakened immune systems it can cause a fatal infection. This includes people undergoing cancer treatment, or a bone marrow transplant, but it is now believed that some viral infections, such as influenza (flu) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) can also cause deadly fungal infections in healthy people. increase the risk of ,

“When things like this happen in the ICU, it can be devastating because advanced drugs still can’t treat these infections,” said Dr. Brian Yip, an intensive care physician and researcher at the University of Calgary.

“Once many of these infections really take hold and take over, it can be very difficult to clear them up with drugs, antifungals or anti-microbials alone.”

Dr Yip began studying Aspergillus – a type of fungus that is a common mold – and its relationship to viral infections in 2019, following three deaths in intensive care units of patients initially admitted for influenza , but he later died of a fungal infection.

“It was very surprising when people first started identifying the fungus in the lungs. There was a lot of discussion around the tables of ICU doctors, infectious disease doctors, asking ‘Whether aspergillosis was really the cause of death? , or was it just a secondary finding?’” Yipp said. “The pathologists who saw the samples and the autopsies were convinced that it was aspergillosis that was the main problem.”

UCalgary researchers have determined that exposure to Aspergillus, a common fungal mold, can lead to a potentially dangerous aspergillosis infection in people with weakened immune systems.

Working in Yip’s lab, lead researcher Nicole Sarden, a PhD candidate, isolated the mechanism by which the immune system appears to fail to fend off fungal infections.

“In healthy humans. Specialized immune cells, called B cells, produce molecules (antibodies) that basically tag invaders so that other cells in the immune system, called neutrophils, can recognize them, can eat them and clear the infection, ”said Sarden

“But when you have an infection with a virus, such as influenza, or if you get COVID, these molecules are no longer present, which means the immune system that’s trying to eat, and can’t clear the fungus Because they can’t see it.”

Working with both mice and human blood and tissue samples, the researchers found that following a viral infection, neutrophils could identify and surround a fungal infection but did nothing to destroy it.

“The virus kills the B cells, there’s no messenger molecule present, so the neutrophils that normally attack the fungus are blind. They sit there and don’t know what to do,” Sardon said.

The research team also discovered that reintroducing aspergillosis reactive antibodies can protect infected mice, providing hope that a similar treatment will be available for humans with aspergillosis infection in the near future.

While Yip and Sarden focused on Aspergillus, it is not the only fungus that can cause serious or fatal infections. It is estimated that fungal infections kill an estimated 1.5 million people worldwide each year. Most of them are caused by four different fungi; Cryptococcus, Candida, Aspergillus and Pneumocystis. Since the advent of COVID, a rare infection of the fungus Mucormycosis is on the rise in India. It affects the sinuses, brain and lungs of its victims. An increase in Mucormycosis has also been observed in patients who are recovering or have recently recovered from COVID.

Yip is hopeful that research being conducted at Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine may lead to a cure for these infections as well.

“We have some hunches that there could be a similar mechanism to what we see here that we’ve found.” Yip said. “So we think it can be applied to many different types of fungi around the world.”

The research team, led by Sardon, published their findings in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

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