The well-known fungus Aspergillus Fumigatus is everywhere. In fact, most people inhale it countless times during their lives, with the majority never getting sick. However, immunocompromised patients are more prone to develop the fungal disease aspergillosis. But what about lung transplant recipients? In this article, we explore the question why are lung transplant recipients more prone to fungal infections?
New Research Identifies Iron as a Fertilizer for Aspergillosis in Lung Transplant Recipients
Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have pinpointed elevated tissue iron as one of the causes that put lung transplant recipients at risk of developing aspergillosis. Trying to identify the reasons why lung transplants recipients are more likely to develop aspergillosis, the researchers examined the mouse model pathogens. To do so, they transplanted windpipes from one mouse to another.
When observing the rejection of the transplanted windpipe, researchers detected high iron-levels in the transplanted tissue. They then went on to introduce Aspergillus fumigatus to see whether these increased iron levels would raise the risks of developing Aspergillosis.
Examining the question, why are lung transplant recipients more prone to fungal infections, the researchers discovered that higher iron levels trigger the Aspergillus invasion, thus leaving transplant recipients especially vulnerable.
Senior author of the study, Mark Nicholls, MD, explained: “Iron is like fertilizer for the Aspergillus.”
The study also highlighted that the higher the iron levels, the deeper the Aspergillus invasion. This discovery goes a long way toward explaining why some transplant recipients experience more severe symptoms.
The study also showed that starving the Aspergillus of iron could be a way of preventing the development of aspergillosis. So, instead of tackling the fungus, doctors could change iron levels in the prevention of aspergillosis.
Iron levels form part of the answer to the question, why are lung transplant recipients more prone to fungal infections. More research is necessary, however, the findings of this study pave the way to the development of new treatments.