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The Largest Scale Study of Aspergillus fumigatus Could Lead to New Treatment Strategies

Minimum spanning tree of all genotypes identified in at least three countries in Dr. Jianping’s Xu study. Unique colors were assigned to represent the countries in which genotypes were identified. Grey shading depicts genotypes belonging to the same clonal complex.

The largest scale epidemiological study of the global populations of the fungal infectious agent, Aspergillus fumigatus, was led and recently published by Dr. Jianping Xu, IIDR member and professor, Department of Biology in partnership with research institutes around the world.

Each year, A. fumigatus infects up to 4 million people worldwide and can cause aspergillosis, a disease with a mortality rate up to 90% if untreated.

“Aspergillosis is a globally important fungal infection,” Dr. Xu explains. “Understanding its epidemiology will help us in tracking the origin and spread of highly infectious genotypes and drug resistance. This enables better diagnosis and targeted treatments of the disease.”

By analyzing a global sample of over 2000 isolates of the fungus from 13 countries on four continents, the study showed that A. fumigatus contains historically differentiated genetic populations but its evolution is significantly impacted by contemporary forces such as widespread gene flow and local antifungal drug pressure.

Dr. Xu explains the next steps for his research: “We would like to expand the data collections to other currently under-sampled or un-sampled geographic regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Canada. In addition, we will be using these data to design rapid and highly specific markers for diagnosis that can lead to targeted treatments.”

Read the full publication here.