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Fungal infections caused by mold: This is why molds are so dangerous

Fungal infections caused by mold: This is why molds are so dangerous


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A mold will paralyze the immune system

It is not uncommon for molds to nest in our home, which poses considerable health risks. A research team led by Professor Dr. Oliver Werz from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena has now found out how the mold Aspergillus fumigatus undermines the immune system and can lead to life-threatening fungal infections.

Molds, especially in people who are already weakened, often cause serious illnesses, which often take on life-threatening proportions. A particularly common representative of the genus of mold is Aspergillus fumigatus. Why this can easily become a serious danger for people, the international research team led by Professor Dr. Werz examined in a recent study. Their results were published in the "Cell Chemical Biology" magazine.

Molds are practically everywhere

Aspergillus fumigatus can be found almost everywhere and is highly dangerous for people with a weakened immune system, the researchers report in a press release from the University of Jena. The mold occurs "practically in all habitats on earth: as dark gray, wrinkled upholstery on damp walls or in microscopic spores that fly through the air and adhere to wallpaper, mattresses and floors." For most people, this is not a particular problem , because your immune system can successfully ward off or switch off the spores. In people with an immunodeficiency, however, the body's immune system is not able to successfully eliminate mold spores that enter the body. The mold can quickly put your life in danger.

Mycotoxin weakens the immune system

The international research team was able to prove in its investigations that, among other things, the so-called gliotoxin, a highly potent mycotoxin, has a significant influence on the pathogenicity of the mold. "It was known that this substance has an immunosuppressive effect, ie it weakens the activity of immune defense cells"; explains study leader Prof. Werz .. In the current study, the researchers have now investigated how exactly gliotoxin influences the immune system. In doing so, they were able to explain the underlying molecular mechanisms in detail.

Effect on immune cells examined

In their study, the researchers associated immune cells, so-called neutrophils, with synthetically produced gliotoxin and observed the reaction. These cells form the first line of defense of the immune system, explain Prof. Werz and colleagues. "It is your job to identify and eliminate pathogens," the study director continued. When neutrophil granulocytes come into contact with a pathogen such as a fungus, they release certain messenger substances (leukotrienes) into the blood that attract other immune cells. A sufficiently large number of immune cells can gather to render the intruder harmless, reports Prof. Werz.

Communication of the immune cells is prevented

However, the pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus switches off the protective mechanism using gliotoxin. This prevents the production of the messenger substance LTB4 in the neutrophilic granulocytes, which means that the immune cells cannot give a signal to other immune cells, the researchers explain. The mycotoxin switches off a certain enzyme (the LTA4 hydrolase) and "this interrupts the communication between the immune cells and disrupts the defense mechanism," said Professor Werz. In this way, penetrating germs, in this case the mold, can easily nest in tissues or organs and possibly cause a life-threatening invasive fungal infection. (fp)

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