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article imageTreating lethal fungal infections by starving fungi

By Tim Sandle     Jun 23, 2018 in Science
A new study shows how starving fungi could save millions of lives each year. Scientists have discovered a new approach to treating lethal fungal infections, which has the potential to save millions of lives each year.
The new research, from the Westmead Institute for Medical Research, indicates how potentially lethal fungal infections can be treated. This is by starving the fungi of the nutrients they need for reproduction. This stops the growth of the fungus and thus infections from spreading.
Laboratory tests showed that by preventing different species of pathogenic fungi from producing transporters which function to carry vital nutrients, such as phosphate, led to starvation of the fungi. Phosphorus is an important mineral macronutrient required for proper growth and development of fungi.
Despite the importance of phosphate, many pathogenic fungi are relatively poor at absorbing the chemical derivative of phosphoric acid. This causes the fungi to produce more of the transporters in an attempt to bring in more phosphate the 'phosphate starvation response'). The researchers found that in a number of fungal species, the response to phosphate deprivation involved activation of multiple processes which overlaps with the responses to other types of stress.
The Australian research team demonstrated that by blocking this mechanism this blocked fungi from producing the transporters required to obtain more nutrients, leading to fungal starvation. This presents an alternative mechanism by which to kill fungal infections; this is something of importance given that many fungi are becoming resistant to anti-fungicides. Moreover, no new classes of anti-fungal agents have been discovered and introduced since 1986.
According to one of the researchers, Dr Sophie Lev: "This finding is particularly exciting, because we may not need to start from scratch to identify drugs that block the fungal nutrient starvation response."
The research has been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, with the long title of the paper running: "Why is a functional PHO pathway required by fungal pathogens to disseminate within a phosphate-rich host: A paradox explained by alkaline pH-simulated nutrient deprivation and expanded PHO pathway function".
More about Fungi, Fungal infection, Biology, Microbiology
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