Monday, 31 October 2011

Newsbite: Lewis Successfully Completes his Himalayan Challenge for the Fungal Research Trust

Aaron McKevitt and Lewis Fraser successfully completed their 100mile, 12 000 feet of climbing challenge on behalf of the Steph Smith Appeal for the Fungal Research Trust well within the 5 days required. That is the equovalent of running 4 marathons one after the other while at the same time climbing Ben Nevis ( the highest peak in Britain) nearly 3 times - and all of this starting at 6000ft of altitude.

At 6000 feet of altitude people standing still are at risk from altitude sickness if they are not acclimatised as the amount of oxygen present in the air is down to 18% (it is 21% at sea level). Aaron & Lewis touched 12000 feet at some parts of the challenge where there is only 15% oxygen in the air.

Read their Tweets here:

Lewis Fraser

Up at 0430 tomorrow to start the first leg- 24miles up hill to 11500ft.
17 Oct

Lewis Fraser

0430 is early. Here goes everything
Lewis Fraser

Day 3 complete. First marathon complete after a 44mile run the previous 2 days. Only 30 miles to go.
20 Oct
Lewis Fraser

Day 1 was a killer!! 24 miles and a 10000ft ascent. Suffered from altitude sickness. Had to stop every 30m or so to catch my breath.
20 Oct
Lewis Fraser

Half marathon starts in an hour and it's raining. I thought the monsoon season was over. :0(
21 Oct
Lewis Fraser

Day 4 complete. Got very wet and I have a dodgy knee. Had to use my walking poles as crutches. Only 17 miles to do tomorrow. :0)
21 Oct
Lewis Fraser

Finally the last day is here. Only 7 more hours an it will all be over.
22 Oct
Lewis Fraser

It's all over. 100 mile Himalayan stage race complete. It's been emotional, thanks everyone for all your support.
22 Oct
Please support this outstanding effort and help us provide researchers for the diagnosis of aspergillosis






Thursday, 27 October 2011

Concentration of antifungal agents within host cell membranes

  1. Posaconazole has been used successfully for preventing invasive fungal infections in at risk patients, despite it giving relatively low serum concentrations. However, high tissue levels of this agent have been reported in treated patients.

  2. A recent study has tested the theory that it is the intracellular levels of posaconazole which are important for determining the success of this antifungal for prophylaxis. see Campoli et al

  3. By exposing endothelial cells to posaconazole or itraconazole, then removing any extracellular drug, prior to allowing infection with various fungal species - they were able to inhibit growth of A. fumigatus for at least 48 hours and the cells were protected from damage caused by infection. Cell-associated posaconazole levels were 40 to 50-fold higher than extracellular levels and the drug was predominantly detected in cellular membranes. Fungistatic levels of posaconazole persisted within epithelial cells for up to 48 hours.

    The protective effect was not possible for antifungals other than posaconazole and itraconazole. The study suggests that the concentration of posaconazole in the cellular membranes is responsible for its effectiveness when used as a prophylactic drug, and explains the discrepancy between serum levels of these drugs and their effectiveness.
  4. Measurement of the pharmacokinetics of the cellular and membrane fractions respectively- may enable the refinement of dosing strategies to enhance action of the drugs whilst minimising exposure to the antifungal agent.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Marine Aspergillus species produce substances which can protect liver cells from alcohol damage

A number of Aspergillus species produce substances of great commercial use to mankind. For example A. niger is used to produce citric acid and A. oryzae and A. sojae are used to make miso and soya sauce.

It now seems that some aspergillus species also may produce substances which can protect the liver from alcohol related damage as reported by Xian et al .
Alcohol is metabolised in the liver but excess alcohol can lead to acute and chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, fatty liver and liver cancer. The problem is even more concerning, as alcohol abuse can lead to other organ failures and damage including the heart, pancreas, immune system and reproductive system. There is much evidence indicating that oxidative stress by reactive nitrogen and oxygen molecules is harmful to the liver, whilst ethanol stress causes a decrease in the antioxidative function of liver cells rendering them susceptible to damage in this way.

All aspergillus species produce metabolites of a diverse nature. A particular Aspergillus species derived from a marine brown algae - produces two such metabolites - emodin and chrysophanol, which have now been shown to protect liver cells from ethanol toxicity, when studied in a lab culture system. By measuring a number of different markers of oxidative stress in a well studied liver cell line - it was shown that emodin and crysanophol were able to inhibit an enzyme - gamma glutamyl transferase - produced in reponse to alcohol damage of liver cells.

Potentially these aspergillus derived substances may be of therapeutic benefit in protecting the liver from alcohol damage and may be of use commercially.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Newsbite: Lewis & Aaron begin their Himalayan Challenge

Tue 18th Oct (Race Day 1) 24 miles
We depart Mikik at 0530!! A 1.5 hour drive will take us to the start of the race at 6600ft.  The race starts at 0730, after a Tibetan ceremony blessing all participants.  We will run 24 miles to Sandakphu (11815ft).  Sleeping arrangements for the run are sleeping bags and we will be staying in bungalows with no hot water for two nights.  The temperatures are expected to be between 10C and -3C overnight.

Friday, 14 October 2011

The Mysteries of Sake Brewing with Aspergillus

What makes the Japanese alcoholic drink different to alcoholic drinks traditionally brewed in the west? What  makes the taste of Sake distinctive? Why do different makes of Sake taste different? The answer to all of these questions is Aspergillus oryzae.

Malted barley
Brewing in the west is usually begun by the breakdown of the complex carbohydrates (starch) in grain using the natural process of germination. Prior to growing a seedling needs to use simple sugars for energy so part of the process of germination involves the release of enzymes within the seed that turn the starch stored in the seed (starch is great for energy storage because it is difficult to use and thus won't get 'accidentally' eaten!) into simple sugars which are easy for the germinating plant to use. This is of course a completely natural process (referred to as 'malting') and has been used for many centuries.

Different drinks tend to use difference sources for their starch - whisky uses barley, wheat or rye and these can impart a characteristic taste to the drink. Other sources of starch can be used e.g. potato, sweet potato and other vegetables though not often commercially - the brewer tends to use starch sources readily available in the part of the world they are working.

Moromi, the main mash
In the East the principle starchy food is rice so that forms to basis for its brewing industries e.g. Sake. The grain that is used for Sake brewing is that which is unsuitable for eating and is often weak. Germination is not carried out as perhaps this weaker grain would not germinate well, but all the parts of the seed are also thought to be contaminants that impair the flavour of the drink. Only the pure, polished starch grains are used. This leaves the brewer with a problem - how to convert the starch into simpler sugars for consumption and conversion into alcohol?

Grain of rice on which
koji is propagating
Aspergillus oryzae is a 'domesticated' species of Aspergillus that has been used by the Sake industry for centuries (named koji). Over this time each company has jealously guarded its own strain of koji, resulting in multiple slightly different strains gradually evolving all over Japan. Koji is seeded onto the rice starch and proceeds to release enzymes to break down the starch into simple sugars. Starting two days later yeast is added which now finds a plentiful supply of sugar to turn to alcohol and proceeds to grow along with the koji over the next few days.

One effect of this 'co-culture' technique is that the yeast continues to work for longer, producing more alcohol and a stronger drunk compared with western brews (beers 5-7%, wines 11-14%, sake 14 - 20% alcohol). Another is that the use of a 'pure' source of starch gives a distinctive flavour, and that flavour is contributed to by the particular strain of koji in use in each factory.

The use of Aspergillus to brew the beverage is more efficient, allows more starch to be turned into alcohol and gives the drink a distinctive taste!

 An introduction to Sake (Esquire)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Newsbite: Aspergillus Infections of the Immunocompetant Host

165 Aspergillus spp. isolates were detected in the respiratory cultures of 139 patients. Of these patients, 62 (45%) were colonized with Aspergillus spp. and displayed no clinical symptoms of aspergillosis, while 77 (55%) had a form of pulmonary aspergillosis, characterized as either chronic necrotizing pulmonary aspergillosis (CNPA) (48%), aspergilloma (29%), IPA (13%), or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) (10%).
The dominant species were Aspergillus fumigatus (41%), A. niger (32%), and A. versicolor (12%). A. fumigatus was most commonly isolated in patients with IPA, aspergilloma, and CNPA, whereas A. niger was the dominant species in colonized patients and those with ABPA.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Running to the Top of the World for Aspergillosis Research

On the 18th October 2011 Lewis Fraser and his friend Aaron McKevitt are taking on one of the most difficult challenges possible in order to raise money for the Fungal Research Trust, a major contributor to UK research into aspergillosis.

They are going to attempt to run 100 miles over 5 days which in itself is an extremely tough challenge, however Lewis & Aaron are doing this in the Himalayan Challenge where the air is thinner making breathing more difficult, altitude sickness a prime possibility and they have tens of thousands of feet to be climbed - they run equivalent of running up Ben Nevis three times on the first day alone!

Lewis is quoted in this article in a newspaper close to his home in Scotland

"It is going to be a gruelling event that will push us to our limits, dealing not only with the distance, but terrain and - most difficult of all - the altitude. I'm not worried about the competition - I just want to get to the finish line and raise as much money as we can for the charity. Originally we hoped to raise about £5,000, but already the figure is over £7,000, which is absolutely fantastic."

The Fungal Research Trust is a non-profit charity established in 1991 which aims to raise awareness of Aspergillus fumigatus.
You can read about the several severely debilitating forms of aspergillosis caused by Aspergillus in the Aspergillus Website. If the person infected has a compromised immune system the fungus can invade their body quickly and thus needs to be detected and treated quickly. We have an array of effective drugs with which to treat aspergillosis, many of which have been developed over the last 10 years but in some cases we still cannot detect the infection quickly enough to use the drugs early enough to make a difference. A major focus of the research funded by the Fungal Research Trust is to develop new tests to detect Aspergillus infections much more quickly.

Research like this costs a lot of money. We estimate £150 000 to fund a research project for 3 years which sounds a lot but if everyone in the UK alone who has been diagnosed with aspergillosis gave £1 a week we would be able to start straight away. The project funding can be applied for from anywhere in the world so we are asking for donations from anywhere in the world - no matter where you live we can help you with our research - the research could actually take place in the US or Europe.
Stunning views, extreme effort in 2010

If you have any form of aspergillosis you will be able to find extensive support on the Aspergillosis for Patients website  and on the website of the National Aspergillosis Centre, the only centre of its type anywhere in the world which is located in the University Hospital of South Manchester, Manchester, UK We specialise in treating several specific types of aspergillosis and severe asthma and advise doctors all over the world on how to treat aspergillosis of all types.

Read of other runners' experiences in this challenge in 2010 here and here. Lewis & Aaron, it is probably best you don't read these experiences until after the challenge is over!

To support this extreme effort and an extremely worthy cause, donate here

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Newsbite: National Aspergillosis Centre Patients Support Meeting Shortlisted for National Award

Patient nursing & support staff at the National Aspergillosis Centre, Manchester, UK have been shortlisted for a Nursing Times award for their 'Actual and virtual' patients support meetings that happen once per month. Extensive efforts to put patients first means that monthly meetings are held to provide advice, information and mutual support as well as encourage patients involvement in their own health management, research at the NAC and more. Patients and their carers can attend the meeting both actually (physically attending the meeting) or virtually (tuning in to watch via the internet, asking questions of the speaker using the internet) and the novelty of this approach is proving very successful.
The winner is decided on November the 2nd 2011 - Well done team and Good Luck!

Contact us at