Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Fungi thrive on a human hair

In a recent article in New Scientist LIFE,  Scientists from National Institute of Health (US), in the first study of fungal diversity on human skin - have sequenced fungi on the bodies of healthy adults. Up until now fungal cells have been neglected compared to the vast amount of bacteria - about 1 trillion living on each one of us! This outnumbers human cells 10:1.
The picture shows bacteria in pink and fungi in grey-blue - living on a human hair shaft.(Image: Alex Valm NHGRI)
Although fungi are less numerous on the skin than bacteria, their role in the body's ecosystem is unclear. Sequencing studies have shown the dominant fungal species on the human trunk and head to be Malassezia - which also can cause dandruff. The feet harbour a huge diversity of species including Aspergillus, Cryptococcus, Rhodotorula, and Epicoccum - some of these can be harmful when found inside us. The heel alone was found to have 80 genus level types of fungi.
It is hoped that the DNA sequencing of the body's fungi will help us to understand better the role of bacteria & fungi in our skin's complex ecosystem.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Berwick report points the way to protect patient safety in the NHS

The Berwick report into NHS patient safety was released on August 6th. This report was requested by the Prime Minister from Professor Don Berwick a renowned international expert in patient safety, following on from the Francis report into the breakdown of care at Mid Staffordshire Hospitals.

The report details the advisory group’s summary and recommendations for the way forward view full report. Berwick also released three separate letters aimed at medical professionals, the public and the NHS leadership.

Quoting  from his letter to the public (View):"I have been asked to assemble and chair an Advisory Group to recommend some important actions that leaders, clinicians, professional bodies, government agencies and others could take to improve the quality and safety of care in the NHS.You will have read much in the public press that may alarm you about the patient care in the English NHS. After all, things did go quite wrong at Mid Staffs, and, like others, we believe that problems in care often occur throughout the NHS. In that, however, I assure you that the same can be said of every health care system in the world. Health care is complicated, and, even when the staff and clinicians are doing their very best (which is most of the time), errors occur and problems arise for patients that no-one intends."

"What you do have in the NHS is something that most other nations in the world don’t have: a unified system of care that is completely capable of identifying its problems, admitting them, and acting to correct them. That is the process now underway; that is the process that led your leaders to convene our Advisory Group; and that is the process that can and, I believe, will help the English NHS to emerge over time as one of the safest health care systems in the world. That is not easy. And it gets even harder if the staff of the NHS experience a culture of fear, blame, recrimination, and demoralization.
I hope that you resist such general negativity, in yourself and anyone else, and instead clearly point the way with energy and optimism toward the care that you and I want, and that the vast majority of people who work in the NHS want to offer."

The report outlines clear objectives view full report, but from the patients perspective it is clear that patient safety is best served when patients and carers are actively engaged in health care and their voices are heard and listened to.

NHS England’s response: “Don Berwick’s report is landing at exactly the right time for the NHS. He has highlighted many of the key areas that the NHS is actively addressing to give our patients quality care every time and support our staff to work with the right conditions for success this report demonstrates the passion for patient safety that so many in the NHS have and will be a touchstone for patient safety in the NHS for the next decade or more. NHS England accepts the challenges set in this report and will lead the way in responding”. View full NHS response.
The 10 key Berwick recommendations can be viewed here.

Friday, 16 August 2013

UK Fungus Day Announcement

The British Mycological Society are organising an event entitled UK Fungus Day in 2013. There are over 40 events scheduled across the UK on the weekend of October 12th - 13th 2013 in support of this inaugural UK Fungus Day (visit our website http://ukfungusday.co.uk/page1.php for more details of events near you).

If you would like to help out at one of these events or would like to take part by giving a poster presentation or talk to the general public about the research that you do then please contact us at: ukfungusday@britmycolsoc.info.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine Becomes Educational Institute

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has a worldwide reputation for its research - indeed was the first such institute in the world to work exclusively on tropical diseases. One such disease is Tuberculosis and we know that TB sufferers are at risk of developing chronic pulmonary aspergillosis (CPA) - possibly quite a high risk.

Such diseases have received very little funding and remain largely unknown throughout the world. Therefore it is very welcome news that LSTM is to become an institute for higher education and will be participating in spreading high quality information and education around the world on these awful infections, raising awareness in the next generations of doctors and scientists.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has designated the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine as a higher education institution eligible to receive funding direct from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Professor Janet Hemingway CBE, Director of LSTM, said: “We are delighted that LSTM, which has always been an independent institution, is now recognised as an HEI in its own right. It will improve our profile nationally and internationally and support our ambitions for continued growth and expansion.”

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

University of Manchester Build a Strong Team to Fight Fungal Infection World-Wide

The University of Manchester has invested in building a world-class research group to tackle a problem that is largely unrecognised yet affects millions of people each year.

Globally and annually, over 300 million people suffer from serious fungal infections, resulting in 1,350,000 deaths – many of which are unavoidable. Most serious fungal infections are hidden, occurring as a consequence of other health problems such as asthma, AIDS, cancer or organ transplants. Delays or missed diagnosis often lead to death, serious chronic illness or blindness.

Professor Nick Read
Now, the newly formed multidisciplinary Manchester Fungal Infection Group (MFIG) hopes to make a difference with the recruitment of three leading experts from Edinburgh and London. Professor Nick Read has moved from Edinburgh University and leads the group, while Dr Elaine Bignell from Imperial College, London, has been appointed as a Reader, and Dr Mike Bromley as a lecturer. Manchester senior lecturers, Dr Paul Bowyer and Peter Warn will also join the MFIG and will work alongside the already thriving research and teaching teams of Professors David Denning and Malcolm Richardson, and Dr Riina Richardson, to form this pioneering Group.

 Professor Nick Read is an internationally-renowned fungal cell biologist with over 30 years of research experience and has pioneered the use of advanced live-cell imaging techniques with many fungi, including human pathogens. Professor Read said:

“The opportunity to develop cutting-edge, multidisciplinary science in the relatively neglected but extremely important topic of fungal infection will be internationally unique and I am very excited to be able to join and lead this team of talented scientists in Manchester.” 

 The focus of the MFIG going forward is developing a profound understanding of the biology of the mechanistic basis of Aspergillus fungal infection, identifying new antifungal drugs and human genetic risk profiling.
The team will also work with the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) a partnership between The University of Manchester and six NHS Trusts which helps health care organisations reap the benefits of research and innovation to drive improvements in care.

 Professor Ian Jacobs, University of Manchester Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Human Sciences added:
“I am excited by the combination of strong clinical leadership, exemplified by the National Aspergillosis Centre, and internationally competitive science, which these new appointments bring. This fits perfectly with the strategy of our Faculty to develop outstanding science in to health benefit. MFIG can have an impact in the UK and internationally in a neglected area which is responsible for enormous suffering and over a million deaths every year.’’
University of Manchester

MAHSC is a partnership between

Monday, 12 August 2013

Allergens Can Work Together to Cause Allergy

How allergies are caused is still something of a mystery to us. We know that some allegens e.g. pet dander, dust mite faeces have a large effect on our allergies but that this is quite variable. Some people do not suffer from allergies and others will only respond to allergens in particular places.

There are several known allergens produced by Aspergillus and other fungi that have a similar effect, and similar to dander and dust mite they are very difficult to avoid.  These allergens are therefore very important medically - consequently there is an allergen database storing information on them for research use here: Allergome - Allergome recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary.

Many allergens are known to be proteins but we also know that there are are huge variety of proteins that we can inhale every day that do not cause allergy. Allergens seems to have little in common in terms of size. There are allergens that cause strong allergic responses that are large in size and equally effective small allergens. It is not known why some proteins make powerful allergens and others do not, we do not know enough about how a particular protein triggers the allergic cascade of events in our airways to be able to explain allergy adequately.

Recent research shows that we may be starting to find our some of the answers to these unknowns. Herre et.al. have found that microbial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) interacts with cat dander allergen and that this interaction enhances the allergic response. In a home with either cat dander or lots of bacterial growth (e.g. a damp home) there may not be much of an allergic reaction caused, but both together is more likely to cause health problems. This is a new type of allergy initiation mechanism and points the way to the development of new drugs (or possibly new home cleaning agents)  that may prevent the interaction between these substances and thus cut allergy.

There are other types of interaction known to contribute to allergy - it is interesting to note that here we have one mechanism that might help explain why people living in damp homes are prone to allergy. There is a natural inclination to blame health problems in damp homes on visible signs of dampness such as the growth of moulds, but here is an example of ill health caused by invisible components of damps homes e.g. bacterial growth.

Story on BBC website

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Poetry & Medicine Workshop - National Aspergillosis Centre

Poetry & Medicine Workshop

12 OCT Saturday 10.00am - 12.00pm

The Manchester Museum
The University of Manchester
Oxford Road
M13 9PL

Poetry and medicine: an unlikely combination? Discuss poetry by patients and medical practitioners worldwide that moves, surprises and opens the windows between medicine and the arts. Poetry newcomers welcome. The event will be chaired by Caroline Hawkridge, writer in residence at the National Aspergillosis Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester ( nationalaspergillosiscentre.org.uk)

Manchester Literature Festival

Monday, 5 August 2013

Fungal Infection Trust Sponsors UK Scholarship in Medical Mycology

The Fungal Infection Trust has offered to completely subsidise the MSc fees of one strong UK applicant to the new Medical Mycology MSc to be run in Manchester over the next academic year.

There are insufficient medical mycologists in the UK for the burgeoning number of patients, especially those with fungal allergy and chronic infection, on top of the many thousands who acquire life-threatening mycoses. Vastly improved non-culture diagnostics, human genetic and immunology understanding, and new antifungal agents on the horizon promise a genuine revolution in care and prospects for greatly improved outcomes over the coming decades.

The course details can be found here:

Applications should be made through the Manchester University portal; http://www.manchester.ac.uk/postgraduate/howtoapply and be accompanied by apply you need to provide a plan (Personal Statement, max 750 words) how you intend to use the scholarship to improve the diagnostics and care of patients with fungal infections in the UK. A support letter from the Head of your Hospital or Clinical laboratory summarising how your new skills will be put in use is highly recommended.

The details of the Fungal infection Trust can be found here:

'Open the Windows' Poetry & Medicine Reading

Rebecca Goss's newborn daughter Ella was diagnosed with a heart condition at the hospital where Denise Bundred worked. However, they only met later as poets, writing about their respective experiences as mother/patient and doctor.

Join us for their reading which also features music celebrating ‘breath’ specially commissioned from Chris Davies. Rebecca Goss's second collection, Her Birth (Carcanet/Northern House) begins with Ella’s birth, her short life and her death, and ends with the joys and complexities that accompany the birth of another child. Her Birth has been shortlisted for The Forward Prize for Best Collection of Poetry 2013. Denise Bundred's poetry was highly commended in the Hippocrates Prize 2012 and 2013.

Freelance musician/performer Chris Davies works mainly with visual theatre and dance, and is interested in music as a means of promoting a sense of well-being.

This event is presented in partnership with The National Aspergillosis Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester, which treats patients with fungal disease, usually of the lungs.

Manchester Literature Festival 2013

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Researchers Block Asthma Symptoms Caused by Aspergillus

Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase
A new report shows that a particular enzyme that is present in our lungs is responsible for many of the symtpms of severe asthma. CaMKII is hyperactive in the lungs of people suffering from severe asthma, but not in the lungs of people who are not asthmatic. This alone makes it useful as an indicator of the severity of the disease a patients is suffering from and can be used to follow the progression of the asthma.

Researchers already know that Aspergillus fumigatus allergens are strong inducers of asthma-like symptoms in mouse models of the disease (and in human sufferers) so they constructed molecules that blocked the activity of CaMKII and tested whether or not these molecules could stop the asthmatic symptoms in mice. The result was that blocking the activity of CaMKII also prevented any asthma symptoms from occurring - a completely new finding in the field of asthma research.

This result does not necessarily mean that the same benefit to athma sufferers will happen when CaMKII is blocked in human trials but testing this is the next step and the chances of success are quite good. If it works then we will immediately  have a new drug with which to attack asthma caused by the inhalation of allergens such as Aspergillus, but even if this is not immediately successful this research paves the way for the development of new drugs and treatment strategies in the future
This is great news for asthmatics who are sensitive to moulds and other allergens, and may save many lives in the future.

A new drug target for asthma treatment

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