Friday, I have questions for scientist, Ana Alastruey-Izquierdo. Saturday, she has answers for me.
Sunday morning, out for a run, I wonder how to approach a second study of aspergillus. Looking around, I know the fungus is all around me. I come across a dead tree and have the idea to gather twigs for drawing texture and interesting mark-making.
Though I don’t want to simplify Ana’s work, I do want to get a general sense of the bug.
Where in the body does aspergillus end up? (I think breathing pathways…nose, lungs. How about the liver?) How and what sort of damage does it cause? On a scale from 1-10 how bad/problematic to a person – is this fungus? (I hope she doesn’t cringe at the latter.)
It can go almost anywhere, Ana explains. We daily breath thousands of Aspergillus spores. It is in our lungs. People with a healthy inmune system usually clear it up and it does not go further. There are some persons in which an allergic response is developed and this causes allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA).
The other important group are people that have problems with the immune system (cancer, transplants, HIV, people under corticosteroids, diabetic…etc). In these patients Aspergillus enters into the lungs and if it is not cleared by their immune system it further develops infections and can lead to invasive aspergilosis that if not treated has 100% mortality. Mainly Aspergillus causes respiratory infections but as I said, it can diseminate in people with impaired immune systems.
Ana continues… How bad/problematic for a person with Aspergillus depends on the immune system. Mortality is arround 40% but can reach 80% if we are dealing with strains that are resistant to antifungals.
The problem with antifungal resistance is that it is not frequently screened. There aren’t many commercially available methods to test for it. Often it is only performed in developed countries and sometimes restricted to reference or very specialized labs.
And regarding the rate from 1 to 10, if you are immunosuppressed or have an underlying disease it can be very problematic, like an 8 or 9. People that are at high risk for developing invasive fungal infections, like hematological patients, receive antifungal prophylaxis by default. But if you are healthy, no problem.
I work and consider her words and the value of this education.
Please feel free to leave questions and/or comments.
More about the work of → Ana Alastruey Izquierdo
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One of the best parts of this particular Public Engagement Project is that I connect with scientists in other parts of the world.
It’s a pleasure to meet you Ana, albeit virtually. Thank you for teaching me about this beautiful but potentially nasty fungus.
Mucho gusto en conocerte Ana!
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