Wageningen UR (University & Research centre), together with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Radboud university medical center (Radboudumc) and the Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CLM), has launched a two-year study into fungicide resistance in Aspergillus, a species of fungus. The study is being funded by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport with the aim of understanding the development and spread of the resistant fungus in order to take measures to reduce this problem.
The fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is very common in our environment, and it makes spores that are inhaled by people. Healthy people almost never get sick from inhaling the spores but they can cause disease in certain groups of patients. These high-risk groups include patients with chronic lung disease and those with severely impaired resistance, for example during treatment for leukaemia and during bone marrow or organ transplantation. Research conducted by Radboudumc has shown that infections caused by the resistant form of the fungus are very difficult to treat. This is because the most widely used fungicides, the azoles, are no longer effective.
The study, which is now underway, is focusing on improving the understanding of factors that play a role in the emergence and spread of the resistant fungus. The first step is to determine whether there are locations and/or circumstances in which the resistant fungus emerges or occurs most frequently; these locations are known as 'hotspots'. The characteristics of the resistance and the presence of fungicides at these hotspots will be studied. Wageningen UR researchers are also going to map out the genetic diversity of the fungus at these locations.