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Fungus Can Damage the Immune System

Fungus Can Damage the Immune System

Researchers found that a species of fungus can harm the immune system of people suffering from AIDS patients or who are immunosuppressed following an organ transplantation.

The study has found that fungus- Aspergillus fumigatus – knocks out the immune defenses, which allows the development of a potentially fatal fungal infection. These microorganisms does not cause any harm to healthy person, however can threaten lives with a compromised immune system, such as AIDS patients or who are immunosuppressed following an organ transplantation, says a new study. The findings were published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology in February 2019 issue.

 The team found that gliotoxin – a potent mycotoxin – is mainly responsible for the pathogenicity of Aspergillus fumigatus. The researchers demonstrated the effect of the toxins by bringing it in contact with the immune cells with synthetically produced gliotoxin. These cells – neutrophilic granulocytes – represent the first line of the immune defence system.

“It was known that this substance has an immunosuppressive effect, which means that it weakens the activity of cells of the immune defence system. However, it had not been clear previously how exactly this happens,” said Oliver Werz, Professor at the University of Jena in Germany.

The researchers demonstrated that in the presence of Aspergillus fumigatus, the affected cells are unable to release specific messenger substances (leukotrienes) into the blood, which attract other immune cells.

This interrupts communication between the immune cells and destroys the defence mechanism. As a result, it is easy for spores – in this case the fungus – that enter the organism to infiltrate tissues or organs,” added Werz.