Aspergillus Newsletter

eNewsletter: July 6, 2008

Living with it, Working with it, Treating it


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The man who discovered Aspergillosis

John Hughes Bennett

John Hughes Bennett (1812-1875) was the first doctor to describe aspergillosis. In his seminal paper published in 1842 entitled "On the the parasitic vegetable structures found growing in living animals" he makes the very first description of aspergillus growing in lung tissue of humans. You can download a copy of the original paper in the historical section - we have written a short biography here.

He was able to do this because of his extensive use of a relatively new medical tool - the light microscope. He was also the first to teach the clinical use of the microscope systematically and its uses in the teaching of pathology and physiology.

This month

Around 12 months ago we were able to launch our own Google search engine, dedicated to making all of the content of this website (including the new genomes content) available for everyone to see. This has been a big success, contributing toa near trebling of our 'page request' figures.

CloudHowever Google searching has limitations. It is very good if you know precisely what you want but even then search results listed off the first page are often ignored and those that run to the third page are almost always never seen. A new approach to searching is needed as an alternative - enter the 'Cloud'.

Cloud searching allows the searcher to choose an area of interest and then to drill down to more specific subjects. It also allows the user to see what subjects are available around a specific subject e.g. it should soon be possible to search for a species and then see whether there is information on mycotoxins, metabolites, lab protocols, books, diagnosis, treatment and also images of that species.

Lots of subjects are suggested as keywords of different font sizes in a visual map of the available information - the larger the font the higher the keyword frequency. Give it a try on the above link - move your mouse pointer over the map above and watch how it changes according to the context of the selected keyword.
Alternatively enter a keyword in the text box at the top.

The indexing process for the cloud is still ongoing with thousands more pages being indexed every day. If you don't find what you want first time come back in a few days!

Latest News and Articles

There have been 27 additions to the articles section. We have picked out a few of the highlights here:

Phosphinothricin resistance in Aspergillus niger and its utility as a selectable transformation marker

Selectable markers are very useful for molecular genetic studies. They can act as markers for takeup and expression of recombinant DNA and as such allow the isolation of genetically manipulated strains. This paper shows that the gene conferring resistance to phosphinothricin, called bar can be used to transform Aspergillus niger and is a useful marker in that species.

A Possible Mechanism for Synergy between Antifungal Therapy and Immune Defenses (David Stevens)

Like other antifungal drugs, echinocandins do not kill Aspergillus in vivo i.e. they are fungistatic, stopping or slowing growth rather than destroying it, but are still highy effective in clearing up infection.

"These results present somewhat of a conundrum: how do drugs that are not fungicidal in vitro have such obvious efficacy in vivo (where drug penetration, as well as pharmacologic and toxicologic issues not present in vitro, would likely make demonstration of efficacy much more difficult)?"

This commentary reviews the various possible mechanisms that might help explain why this happens. For example one mechanism could be that the echinocandin stimulates the immune system when it remodels the fungal hyphae by inhibiting the synthesis of one cell wall component causing it or other components to be exposed to macrophages and neutrophils, stimulating their activity.

Chemosensitization prevents tolerance of Aspergillus fumigatus
to antimycotic drugs

Tolerance to antifungals is an emerging problem with Aspergillus species. This paper investigates substances that can be used to resensitize the fungus to the antifungal - known as chemosensitizers. Application of these substances could provide an alternative to combination therapy.

Thymol is shown to be an effectve chemosensitizer for amphotericin, ketoconazole and fluconazole in vitro.

IL1 Gene Cluster Polymorphisms and Its Haplotypes may Predict the Risk to Develop Invasive Pulmonary Aspergillosis and Modulate C-reactive Protein Level

Susceptibility of some individuals to invasive pulmonary aspergillosis is greater than in others and this paper is trying to provide answers the the question why that is so. IL-1 gene polymorphism is strongly suggested to be a good indicator for susceptibility, potentially providing a predictor that could identify the group of patients most in need of early antifungal treatment.

Anticancer drug developed from Aspergillus fumigatus

In vitro model of angiogenesis - Roy Bicknell ResearchA new drug based on a metabolite from Aspergilus fumigatus has been tested in vivo. It inhibits the growth of a blood supply in tumours (angiogenesis) and is reported to have prevented the growth of tumours in a mouse model. The full story is written in our blog


A series of articles have been added to the Diagnosis section which cover prevalence of ABPA in a variety of populations; Ireland, Saudi and India.

Historical Section

Apart from the John Hughes Bennett biography, we also have a history of systemic mycotic infections in Japan (in Japanese with English abstract):

"This paper reports on medical history from the end of the Edo period to the present and development of studies on infectious diseases, especially medical mycology including systemic fungal diseases."


The medical effects of mold exposure

"The purpose of this position paper is to provide a
state-of-the-art review of the role that molds are known to play in human disease, including asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, sinusitis, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. In addition, other purported mold-related illnesses and the data that currently exist to support them are carefully reviewed, as are the currently available approaches for the evaluation of both patients and the environment."

See also the review by David Stevens MD listed in articles above.

Air Quality

"Man dies after inhaling fungal spores from garden compost" was reported in The Guardian on Friday 13th June. The news item refers to a case report just published in The Lancet of a 47 year old man in previously good health - who inhaled large quantities of fungal spores from decaying compost. The patient was seriously ill with breathing difficulties and subsequently died of renal failure. Tests subsequently revealed that he had developed acute aspergillosis and Aspergillus fumigatus was cultured from sputum samples.

This story was covered in our blog, as was an article on a recent review on "Mould and Flooded Homes" by Prof H. James Wedner.

See also Online Books below.

Online Books

Damp Indoor Spaces and Health (2004) by the Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) Institute of Medicine (IOM) is available in full free of charge at the National Academies Press. Links to other online books websites are given in our Library here

Image Library

Images of a patient who developed voriconazole blistering on his hands when exposed to sunlight, can be seen in the medical images section of the image library.

REQUEST: We would like to improve the number of images we have of Aspergillus, and the image resolution. We are regularly asked for images for the news media and other publications, for which we charge a fee. If anyone has good images they would like to donate or perhaps sell on a commision basis please let us know. Images must be at least 300dpi for publication purposes.

Case Histories

Five new cases added:

  • Invasive cutaneous aspergillosis in a child with burns (case 67)
  • Severe invasive Aspergillus sinusitis in a 2 year-old patient with acute myeloid leukaemia (Paediatric - case 68)
  • Severe Asthma with Fungal Sensitisation and treated with itraconazole (case 70)
  • Chronic invasive sinus aspergillosis in a non-immunocompromised patient with images (case 71)
  • Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis with adenocarcioma of the lung and serology consistent with ABPA (case 72)


Aspergillus Trust Annual CompetitionThe website has been updated and streamlined, with a single Question and Answer page and a single Support group which we hope will improve our service to patients.

The Aspergillus Trust has recently announced the latest winner of its annual competition where participants are invited to write a leaflet on an aspergillus illness. This year the subject was on the influence of aspergillus in asthma.

Congratulations Emma Saunders studying to be a Doctor at Manchester University.


The latest updates for genomes are currently still listed under CADRE. We will include these in our website updates very soon.

The genome for A. fumigatus (Af293) has been updated with the annotation resulting from the comparative project with A. fumigatus A1163, A. clavatus and N. fischeri. Gene ids (or public loci) have changed format (e.g., Afu2g03720 is now AFUA_2G03720).


CGD logoA new support group for chronic granulomatous disorder has been initiated as a Yahoo group following the very successful model set out by the Aspergillus support group. To join the group, backed up by Marie Kirwan CGD Specialist Nurse, click on the link above.

Technical Tips

Our discussion group (email and/or website) designed to promote discussion on technical issues for laboratory workers.

Searching the website

We now have a dedicated Google Search Appliance for this website. This means you can search the Aspergillus website using Google and it will include nearly all documents on the website (pdf, doc, ppt, html, php etc). and will include parts of the secure sections and eventually index images - a big improvement on earlier search facilites. Try it out here.


HonCode accreditationHealth on the Net Foundation (HonCode) are the formost accrediation service for health-oriented websites. The Aspergillus website has been accredited since 1999 and this has once again been reaffirmed after the latest review in August 2007


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The Aspergillus Team.

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