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Asthma sufferers have more lung fungi

CARDIFF U. (UK) — Healthy lungs are full of fungi, but some species are more common in people with asthma, new research finds.

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 scientists.

“Historically, the lungs were thought to be sterile,” according to 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 adds.

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.

The journal BMC Infectious Diseases published findings from the most recent study.

Source: Cardiff University

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6 Comments

  1. Latha @ Grove City Allergist

    So would it be possible to use fungal medication to possibly eliminate asthma then? If we could modify the fungi to the same strains as healthy non-asthma people it might be a huge step forward.

  2. charles moffett

    As a child with asthma, and before I ever used an inhaler, my parents would run me to the hospital emergency room when it became a struggle for me to breathe. This was during the mid-fifties to early sixties. At the E.R. the doctors would give me a shot of adrenaline to get my heart jacked up so as to make my system work better to bring air into my lungs. This was, again, before any inhaler use.

    To complicate things, at the same time I had exczema and psoriasis. I later found myself being checked for allergies at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. Needless to say, I was a mess, until:

    At around my twenties, I began riding a bicycle out of necessity. After more than 30 years of riding, I am now free of all of those issues. It was a health thing. I wish there would have been this data at the time I was ‘injured’ with the affliction. It would have helped. But, hey, I’m so strong these days at the young age of 63 and I’m still riding and breathing freely and life couldn’t be better!

  3. mmjohns

    In the Central California Great Valley, we have very high rates of asthma among our population. We have terrible pollution, some of the worst in the nation. However, we also have Valley Fever, a fungal spore that lives in the soil. Farmers double plow fields to make the soil into powder for easier planting. The spores are everywhere. Most of us have spots on our lungs, cysts, or scars from fighting off the dreaded Valley Fever disease. The two causes – fungal and pollution leave our population with great numbers of asthmatics. Records indicate that our lives are shortened by 5 years from living in this valley.

  4. Shane

    This research certainly opens more possibilities for treating asthma. I had no idea about this fungi/fungus, which relates to asthma and are different from people who are non asthmatic. I am curious to know how they would use this finding to help treat this lung disease and most importantly how much this treatment would cost us.

    I know that mould and fungi found in our homes can cause asthma symptoms to occur but fungi in our lungs are something new to me. The findings have definitely opened another way of treating asthma and bringing us closer to getting a cure for this disease.

  5. arlene

    I imagine it will be hard for mainstream docs to admit that some of their favorite meds — steroids — actually fuel fungal growth, so some treatments may be making asthmatics worse. In my experience, even pulmonologists and allergy docs make this mistake.

    When I was given steroids and got much sicker, more types of steroids in higher doses were prescribed. I threw the scrips in the trash and went down a different path. I had spores in my lungs (revealed via CT), but the docs still tried to sell me on steroids.
    Treatment with both pharmaceutical and natural antifungals (including via nebulizer) has helped me feel much better.

    A similar problem happens for patients who suffer “chronic bronchitis.” Sometimes the recurrent infection is fungal — not bacterial — and has been caused by the antibiotics. But instead of testing for this, the docs give patients more or stronger antibiotics and the fungal persists or worsens.

    I hope this recent research will get patients the right test results, which will help them get the appropriate treatments.

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