Wednesday, 26 November 2008

'Know your air for health' site to help communicate EU air quality information

Air pollution affects us in many ways, often more than we realize. Obvious effects are those which directly impact on human health. Aspergillus species produce airborne spores which we all breathe in on a daily basis. For most of us in good health that is not a problem but for people with immune suppression, asthma and other problems which weaken the immune system, Aspergillus spores can infect a person and become a serious threat to health if not suspected and treated early.
Air quality and "Know your air for health" is a joint project by the Health & Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA). Their website's main objective is to help communicate EU air quality information and alerts to allergy, asthma and COPD patients in Europe. The site contains much information on EU legislation on ambient air quality and specifically on emissions. Amongst many useful links "Find your EU pollen forecast" takes you to where a europe-wide breakdown of pollen spore forecasts can be summarised or viewed for an individual country. Pollen types and mould spores are listed individually in a typical pollen forecast. A Countdown service to the start of the pollen/spore seasons and data charts of pollen counts for individual sites and regions are available for clients of Pollen UK. Much information is available on the site and historical data from ~300 pollen monitoring stations has been used to produce load maps of the likely intensity of pollen loads for a given month and area.

Aspergillus blog service interrupted

Users may have noticed that we have not published since the 11th November. The reason for this is that we were denied access to the blog while Google assessed this blog for its potential to be spam. Google 'antispam-robots' identify blogs that they consider are potential 'spam blogs' (Wiki) which are essentially fake blogs designed to promote use of commercial websites.

As we do no such thing our access was restored once the blog was reviewed this morning.

We cannot say with confidence whether or not this will happen again as we will remain the same blog and I can only assume Google 'spam-bots' will stay much the same. We can only hope that they will ignore us in future.

We apologise for the break in service.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Identification of an Aspergillus fumigatus protein which is involved in fungal growth in hypoxic conditions and in drug resistance

The incidence of potentially lethal infections caused by normally benign molds has increased tremendously over the last two decades. One disease in particular, invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), predominantly caused by the common mold Aspergillus fumigatus, has become the leading cause of death due to invasive infections. Currently, we have a limited understanding of how this opportunistic pathogen causes disease in immunocompromised patients.

A recent study by Willger et al has explored a mechanism required by this mold to cause disease, hypoxia (low oxygen) adaptation. The study states that hypoxia adaptation in Aspergillus fumigatus is mediated in part by a highly conserved transcription factor, SrbA, a protein in the sterol regulatory element binding protein family.
A mutant strain, not expressing SrbA was found to be unable to grow in hypoxic conditions, it also displayed increased susceptibility to the azole class of antifungal drugs - specifically it was highly susceptible to fluconazole and voriconazole, and was unable to cause disease in two distinct murine models of IPA.
Importantly, the authors report the discovery of a novel function of SrbA in molds related to maintenance of cell polarity. The finding that SrbA regulates resistance to the azole class of antifungal drugs presents an opportunity to uncover new mechanisms of antifungal drug resistance in A. fumigatus. Further details.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester, to provide National Service for Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis

The Department of Health has announced that from April 2009 funding will be provided for a ‘National Aspergillosis Centre’ at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester, UK. It will be the first national centre for aspergillosis in the world, and will form part of Wythenshawe Hospital’s North West Lung Centre, which has a long history and international reputation for treating lung disorders. This will end any postcode lottery for patients with chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) – an incurable fungal disease of the lung.
It is estimated that there are 500 – 750 cases of CPA in England, and that the new National Centre will provide access to specialised services in an area of high unmet patient need.

The National Aspergillosis Centre will provide patients from across the country with access to a team of specialist staff including two consultants (Professor Denning and Dr Hope), specialists nurses, surgeons, radiologists, clinical research fellows and the Regional Mycology Laboratory, already situated at Wythenshawe Hospital. Clinical research on these uncommon disorders will be a major focus of the work, already underwritten by the recent NIHR Translational Research Centre in Lung Disease being co-located at Wythenshawe. This development will deliver a better quality of care for patients with aspergillosis and should help to reduce mortality rates.

The Clinical Director of the new National Aspergillosis Centre, Professor David Denning says: “We’re delighted that the Department of Health will be funding a National Aspergillosis Centre here in South Manchester, which is an area with high rates of respiratory disease. This national service will benefit patients across the UK, by building on the extensive expertise in chronic fungal lung infections (at Wythenshawe) and sophisticated laboratory support and allowing us to invest further in our clinical and research capabilities.” More information

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