New study targets lethal fungal infection

July 24, 2017, University of Queensland
UQ study targets lethal fungal infection
Crystal structure at 2.1 Å resolution of the target enzyme, ADS lyase. The inset shows detailed structure of the active site. Credit: University of Queensland

The development of new drugs to fight a common fungal pathogen which kills half a million people globally each year is a step closer thanks to a University of Queensland-led study.

UQ PhD student Jessica Chitty of the Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre, School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, said the study targeted the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, which had shown signs of becoming resistant to current medications.

"This is a fungus that can be found around the world and when inhaled, its microscopic cells can cause in people with a weakened immune system," she said.

"Infections are particularly prevalent in people with advanced AIDS but can also occur in transplant recipients and those on .

"Recently two rare cases of Cryptococcus neoformans infections occurred in Australia in immunocompetent people."

Co-author Associate Professor James Fraser said drugs used to treat the disease have been around for a few decades and consequently resistance had become a problem in the treatment of infection.

"The current antifungals we have are ineffective and require close monitoring of the patients," he said.

"Our lab is looking for new drug targets. Fungi are much more closely related to humans, so a drug that kills fungi is probably just as good at killing humans.

"Instead we are examining subtle differences in enzymes that are shared between fungi and humans."

Researchers are targeting an enzyme in the fungus that has a dual role in a pathway necessary for human and to make DNA, and consequently to grow.

"If we can stop the enzyme, we can stop both jobs it performs at once, and therefore stop new cells being made," Ms Chitty said.

"But because it is an enzyme shared by both the disease-causing fungus, and a human host, we need to look for differences between the two so that a new only stops the fungal from functioning."

Explore further: Scientists discover bird blood cell which destroys fatal fungal infection

More information: Jessica L. Chitty et al. Cryptococcus neoformansADS lyase is an enzyme essential for virulence whose crystal structure reveals features exploitable in antifungal drug design, Journal of Biological Chemistry (2017). DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M117.787994

Related Stories

Scientists discover bird blood cell which destroys fatal fungal infection

February 17, 2016
Scientists have discovered that a specialised white blood cell found in birds can destroy a potentially fatal fungal infection which affects more than one million people every year.

Angina drug could inform a new strategy to fight cryptococcosis

June 7, 2016
A drug, more commonly used in the treatment of angina, could be the focus of a new strategy in fighting the fatal fungal infection cryptococcosis.

Recommended for you

Lung-on-a-chip simulates pulmonary fibrosis

May 25, 2018
Developing new medicines to treat pulmonary fibrosis, one of the most common and serious forms of lung disease, is not easy.

Reconstructing Zika's spread

May 24, 2018
The urgent threat from Zika virus, which dominated news headlines in the spring and summer of 2016, has passed for now. But research into how Zika and other mosquito-borne infections spread and cause epidemics is still very ...

Molecular network boosts drug resistance and virulence in hospital-acquired bacterium

May 24, 2018
In response to antibiotics, a gene regulation network found in the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii acts to boost both virulence and antibiotic resistance. Edward Geisinger of Tufts University School of Medicine and colleagues ...

Tick bite protection: New CDC study adds to the promise of permethrin-treated clothing

May 24, 2018
The case for permethrin-treated clothing to prevent tick bites keeps getting stronger.

Past use of disinfectants and PPE for Ebola could inform future outbreaks

May 24, 2018
Data from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak at two Sierra Leone facilities reveal daily usage rates for disinfectant and personal protective equipment, informing future outbreaks, according to a study published May 24, 2018 in ...

Early lactate measurements appear to improve results for septic patients

May 24, 2018
On October 1, 2015, the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bundle of recommendations defining optimal treatment of patients suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.