Friday, 19 December 2008

Case histories and their importance

Case histories are the detailed descriptions of the diagnosis, treatment & outcomes of specific patients suffering from unusual illnesses. They can offer a large amount of information on unusual illnesses though tend to be very specific in their applicability.
Aspergillosis is quite rare in many of its forms and we have a database of more than 70 case histories on the Aspergillus website which we hope provide a lot of important information to medical practitioners looking to treat similar cases.

Some case histories were/are published in mainstream medical journals but many more (1500 in 2008) are now published in dedicated 'open access' journals such as the Journal of Medical Case Reports and its sister journal Cases Journal.

Biomed Central (the organisation behind the publication of the latter two journals) has announced the following event:

Case reports and the importance of stories in health care
We are hosting a one-day academic symposium on case reports and the importance of stories in health care, and we invite you to join us. The event will take place on Friday 15th May in central London, and will be chaired by our Editors-in-Chief, Professor Michael Kidd and Dr Richard Smith.

Confirmed speakers include:
Sir David Weatherall, Emeritus Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford
Ann McPherson, Medical Director of Health Talk Online/DiPEX
Jeffrey Aronson, Reader in Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Oxford
Geoffrey Pasvol, Professor of Infection & Tropical Medicine at Imperial College London
Brian Hurwitz, Chair of Medicine and the Arts, King's College London
Paul Hodgkin, Founder and Chief Executive of Patient Opinion
Tom Jefferson, Cochrane Collaboration
Sir Iain Chalmers, James Lind Library

Attendees will hear topics ranging from the history of case reports, to how case reports fit with evidence-based medicine, reporting of adverse drug interactions, how patients can be helped by case reports, the internet's role in the future of healthcare, and more. As well as the strong academic programme, the event will be an excellent networking opportunity.

More details will follow, but please contact us now to register your interest and secure a place.

Suitable for professional and layperson alike, well worth attending.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Care needed when feeding birds

The recent cold weather in Clinton County has coincided with the deaths of a dozen Canada Geese from aspergillosis.

At this time of year the birds are likely to be stressed from shortage of food and water, and their immune systems will be operating at a less than optimal levels, leaving them exposed to infections.

Feeding birds is a popular pastime for many people but this can be a double edged sword when it comes to bird welfare. Feeding can persuade birds to delay migration or even not migrate at all, thus leaving them under threat of colder conditions than they would normally be exposed to.

More than likely the infection of the geese mentioned in this article originated from mouldy food left out for the birds so this is a timely reminder that food used to feed wild animals should be in good condition, and that any uneaten food should be cleared away before it goes mouldy.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Nine metre high fungus!

Asian countries tend to have a more positive impression of the value of the fungi we all live with. While western foods tend towards use of yeasts (a non-filamentous fungus) to make breads and beverages, eastern foods make fuller use of filamentous fungi such as Aspergillus oryzae in the manufacture of Soy sauce and other foods. It is not so surprising then that it is in the east that an exhibition in celebration of fungi has opened:
The extent to which we are surrounded and affected by bacteria, fungus and molds is the subject of "Kinrui no Fushigi" currently running at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo's Ueno Park. Molds, bacteria and, mostly, mushrooms of every shape and form fill the museum, as do drawings by mangaka Masayuki Ishikawa, author of the series Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture, from which the characters come.
Second only to insects, there are 80,000 different known forms of fungus, mold and bacteria--and a suspected 1.5 million that have yet to be discovered--so there is a lot of ground to cover in very little space.
However, some of the most interesting fungi on exhibit are at the beginning, where there are protolaxite fossils dating back 440 million years. These ancient fungi grew to as much as nine meters tall and 1.5 meters wide, a fact illustrated by two lifesized replicas.

Well worth a visit if you are passing!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Sex life of Aspergillus fumigatus is revealed

The discovery of a sexual cycle in the pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus has just been described in Nature by Scientists from The University of Nottingham and University College Dublin. Aspergillus fumigatus is an opportunistic human pathogen in individuals with weakened immune systems, causing potentially lethal invasive infections and is also associated with severe asthma and sinusitis.

First described 145 years ago this killer fungus, previously had no known sexual cycle and was only thought to reproduce by the production of asexual spores. Dr Paul Dyer (from Nottingham University) is an expert in the sexual development and population variation of fungi said "This discovery is significant - providing both good and bad news. The bad news is that we now know that Aspergillus fumigatus can reproduce sexually, meaning that it is more likely to become resistant to antifungal drugs in a shorter period, and the sexual spores are better at surviving harsh environmental conditions. The good news is that we can use the newly discovered sexual cycle as a valuable tool in laboratory experiments to try to work out how the fungus causes disease and triggers asthmatic reactions. Once we understand the genetic basis of disease we can then look forward to devising methods to control and overcome the fungus."

The discovery of a sexual cycle in A. fumigatus provides insights into the biology and evolution of the species. It helps explain the presence of diverse genotypes despite predominantly clonal reproduction, the conservation of sex-related genes, aspects of genome evolution and defence against repetitive elements. In addition, production of ascospores might aid survival in adverse environmental conditions. The discovery has significant medical implications. Sexual reproduction can result in progeny with increased virulence or resistance to antifungal agents, and can confound diagnostic tests based on the assumption of clonality.

It is hoped the results of this research will lead to new ways of controlling this deadly disease and improved treatments for patients infected with it.
News report

Contact us at