In the relentless pursuit of global health, few adversaries loom as large as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR poses a pervasive threat to both different disease areas and public health as a whole. It has the potential to undermine modern medicine, as previously treatable common infections and injuries may once again become life-threatening. As the gravity of this crisis intensifies, The Fleming Centre will stand at the forefront of a burgeoning global movement to combat AMR. On World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, Professor Ara Darzi, Chair of The Fleming Centre Initiative, writes about the pivotal role this centre will play in the fight against AMR and the far-reaching impact it promises to deliver.
AMR poses a significant threat to global health, making it one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Drug-resistant infections occur when the bacteria responsible for the adaption and evolution of infections, gain the capacity to withstand drugs intended to kill them. The overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics and antifungals, in both humans and animals is only accelerating this process. As a result, AMR has been linked to more than one million deaths worldwide each year; a sign common infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat as the medicines we all rely on become less effective. With people across the globe already dying from drug-resistant infections, the threat of more drugs losing their potency, will put more lives at risk.
Jenny Shelton highlights the potential for invasive and chronic fungal lung infections with Aspergillus fumigatus in COVID-19 patients and the dangers posed by growing antifungal resistance.
Virtually unknown just a few months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions worldwide. The pathogen responsible, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), infects alveolar cells in the lungs. Parallels are already emerging between severe COVID-19 infection and severe influenza. Influenza, or ‘the flu’, is also caused by a virus that infects cells along the respiratory tract and is associated with similar symptoms to COVID-19 but has a lower death rate (<0.1%). Studies have found that up to 65% of individuals hospitalised with severe influenza infection are co-infected with bacteria. A recent review found 9 studies, undertaken in China and USA, that reported bacterial coinfection in a combined 62 of 806 (8%) individuals admitted to hospital with COVID-19 infection and the majority of patients (72%) received antimicrobial drugs.
Another secondary infection associated with severe influenza is invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA), which develops when spores from the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus grow in the lung and pass into the bloodstream to cause sepsis. IPA is diagnosed in up to 19% of individuals hospitalised with influenza, with significantly higher mortality in the patients with IPA. (more…)
In this post, Jennifer Shelton provides an insight into her PhD project which involves over 500 citizen scientists from across the world, in the hope of better understanding a species of fungus that is linked to disease.
It started by a poolside in Gran Canaria.
I was reading my book but thinking about the sticky films we use in the lab to cover plates of DNA that a former postdoc in my group had used to collect Penicillium spores for his study on the population genetics of ‘Alexander Fleming’s lucky fungus’. I’d already decided as part of my PhD to conduct a country-wide survey to determine background levels of Aspergillus fumigatus – a species of fungus – spores in the UK. I had put aside several weeks for driving around the country to collect air and soil samples, yet thoughts of a citizen science project kept buzzing. What if I asked individuals across the UK to collect samples of their local air on a single day, say summer solstice, and post them back to me?
Citizen science projects are increasing in popularity and rely on members of the public to voluntarily collect samples, process data or record observations as part of a research project. Some well-known examples include SETI@Home, which uses internet-connected computers to analyse telescope data in the search for extra-terrestrial life; Foldit, an online video game about protein folding and Swab & Send, a widespread swabbing exercise to identify novel antibiotics in the environment. (more…)