29 February 2016 … Researchers have identified a number of genetic defects or alterations that can lead to an increased susceptibility to fungal asthma. The discovered genetic variants are related to an increased risk of damage to the lining cells of the lung airways and an inability to rapidly kill the Aspergillus fungus.
The research, which was presented last week at the Obstructive Airway Diseases International Symposium in Belgium by researchers from the National Aspergillosis Centre in Manchester, in partnership with the genomics platform company Genestack, describes the first discovery of a genetic cause for fungal asthma. Scientists described 19 genetic alterations in asthma patients that made them more susceptible than others to the exacerbating effects of fungus. Most patients had more than one variant, and this variation is likely to account for the remarkably different clinical patterns seen.
Dr Paul Bowyer, a senior researcher in the Manchester Fungal Infection Group, who supervised the work said: ‘Understanding complex disorders such as allergic fungal asthma requires a different scientific approach from the study of diseases with single gene defects. The collaboration with Genestack has allowed us to ask complex questions and given us the power to select the right genetic variations to direct biological experiments that can give us important answers.’
Misha Kapushesky, CEO of Genestack, said: ‘Genestack worked closely with researchers from Manchester to develop several applications within our platform that allowed them to distill terabytes of raw genomic sequence down to a few causal mutations. We are happy to report also that these applications are available for current and future Genestack clients.’
Professor David Denning, Director of the National Aspergillosis Centre at the University Hospital of South Manchester who presented the data on behalf of the team declared: ‘Unraveling the causes of fungal asthma will lead to much better and precise diagnostics, probably genetic tests. Long term studies will better define what genetic factors are associated with better or worse asthma control and complications.’
For further information please contact:
The University of Manchester
Tel: +44 (0)161 275 8383
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Notes to Editors:
Poorly controlled fungal asthma
Fungal exposure is a daily fact of human existence, which infrequently results in disease. Yet very large numbers of people with atopy are affected by severe asthma and chronic rhinitis, some of which are attributable to fungal allergy. Of the 300 million asthmatics worldwide, fungal asthma affects from 6 to over 15 million, predominantly adults. Antifungal therapy helps most of these patients. Despite major developments in diagnostics and treatments the availability of modern diagnostic methods is very poor in many parts of the world, including in fungal asthma. There is a worldwide need for better access to rapid diagnostics of fungal diseases enabling more targeted use of antifungals and other resources. The Manchester Fungal Disease Network (www.fungimanchester.org) is aligned with the international LIFE (Leading International Fungal Education) initiative (www.life-worldwide.org) and GAFFI (Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections) (www.gaffi.org) aiming at better awareness of fungal diseases, global access to fungal diagnostics and treatments for combating fungal infection.
The University of Manchester and Manchester Fungal Infection Group
The Manchester Fungal Infection Group (MFIG) is an international centre of excellence for fungal infection biology and translational antifungal research at the University of Manchester. It is integrating its research with that of clinicians and industry. MFIG is led by the Director, Prof Nick Read, and supported by the Deputy Director, Dr Elaine Bignell and Principal investigators Dr Paul Bowyer and Dr Mike Bromley. Currently MFIG is home to over 40 postdoctoral researchers, PhD students, technical and administrative support staff. It is based in the Core Technology Facility on Grafton Street and houses state of the art sequencing and imaging equipment in newly refurbished laboratories. See www.fungimanchester.org
The National Aspergillosis Centre
The National Aspergillosis Centre is Manchester’s only ‘unique’ highly specialised service in the NHS. It receives about 450 new referrals annually from all over the UK, mostly patients chronic and allergic aspergillosis. It is lead by four consultants and has a team of specialised nurses, doctors in training, physiotherapists and experienced administrative staff. www.nationalaspergillosiscentre.org.uk
Genestack is an established company, transforming how genomic research and development is done via its next generation universal bioinformatics platform. The platform allows researchers to focus on their research, saving both time and money for its users across a range of industries and sectors. Through its community platform Genestack has a strong and growing base of users, alongside a growing number of significant corporate customers, which is supported from its offices in Cambridge and St Petersburg. www.genestack.com