Scientists at the University of Kent have been awarded a major grant to help in the fight against fungal infections which can be potentially lethal for people whose immune systems are compromised, such those with HIV/AIDS. The £180,000 grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will enable Dr. Fritz Mühlschlegel and Professor Mick Tuite of the University’s Department of Biosciences to develop a greater understanding of what actually makes fungi cause disease.
With the increase in the number of immuno-compromised patients, there has consequently been a continuous rise in the number of reported cases of such severe fungal infections. The two most important fungal pathogens of humans are the yeast-like Candida albicans (more commonly associated with the superficial ‘Thrush’ infection suffered by many women) and the filamentous Aspergillus fumigatus. Both fungi can cause devastating infections with mortality rates as high as 40% (for systemic candidiasis) and 90% (for aspergillosis). Not surprisingly there is an urgent need for new drug therapies to address this serious clinical problem.
The investigation also involves a collaboration with Imperial College, with the overall programme being funded to the tune of £0.5 million. One outcome of this research will be the identification of novel antifungal drug targets that can be exploited by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries in their ‘drug discovery’ programmes.
Dr. Fritz Mühlschlegel is the co-ordinator of the newly formed Infectious Disease Group within the Department of Biosciences at the University of Kent at Canterbury. This group has strong research links with local health authorities, such as the Public Health Laboratory at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Dr Mühlschlegel, who is also a Consultant in Medical Microbiology at William Harvey Hospital, moved to UKC last year from the University of Wuerzburg Medical School, Germany. Mick Tuite is a Professor of Molecular Biology and runs a large research team looking into the genetics and pathogenicity of yeast-like fungi. His research has attracted in excess of £1m research funding over the last three years.
University of Kent. October 2002.