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Fungi offers new clues in asthma fight, say Cardiff scientists

19 Chwefror 2013

Hundreds of tiny fungal particles found in the lungs of asthma sufferers could offer new clues in the development of new treatments, according to a team of Cardiff University scientists.

In the first large study of its type, published in the journal, BMC Infectious Diseases, a team of researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine have uncovered large numbers of fungi present in healthy lungs.

"Historically, the lungs were thought to be sterile," according to Dr Hugo van Woerden from Cardiff University’s Institute of Primary Care and Public Health, who led the research.

"Our analysis found that there are large numbers of fungi present in healthy human lungs. The study also demonstrates that asthma patients have a large number of fungi in their lungs and that the species of fungi are quite different to those present in the lungs of healthy individuals," he added.

By examining the mucus or sputum of patients with and without asthma, the team found some 136 different fungal species with 90 fungal species more common in asthma patients and 46 were more common in healthy individuals.

Having established the presence of fungi in the lungs of patients with asthma, the researchers now hope this could lead to new lines of research and eventually, better treatments for sufferers.

"Establishing the presence of fungi in the lungs of patients with asthma could potentially open up a new field of research which brings together molecular techniques for detecting fungi and developing treatments for asthma.

"In the future it is conceivable that individual patients may have their sputum tested for fungi and their treatment adjusted accordingly," he adds.

This is not the first time the Cardiff researchers have made the link between fungi and asthma. Their previous research found that by removing fungi from people’s homes, they could also help improve life for sufferers.

-Ends-

Notes:

A copy of the full paper is available at: www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2334/13/69

The team’s previous research which found that removing fungi from people’s homes, may also help improve life for sufferers is available at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2117320/

For further information contact:

Professor Ian Matthews

Institute of Primary Care & Public Health

Cardiff University

School of Medicine

Neuadd Meirionnydd

Heath Park

Cardiff CF14 4YS

Tel: 029 20687246

Or

Dr Hugo Van Woerden

School of Medicine

Cardiff University

E-mail: vanwoerdenH1@cf.ac.uk

Tel: 07794 331801

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, University Chancellor Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

Three major new Research Institutes, offering radical new approaches to neurosciences and mental health, cancer stem cells and sustainable places were announced by the University in 2010.

www.cardiff.ac.uk