Aberdeen University awarded £5.1M to tackle fungal killers

Invasive fungal infections are responsible for around 1.5 million deaths worldwide each year.

Yet fungal infections are poorly understood and have much less public awareness than diseases caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Now the University of Aberdeen has been awarded £5.1M from the Wellcome Trust to lead a major UK collaboration which will take a ‘laboratory bench to hospital bedside’ approach to tackle the problem.

The Aberdeen Fungal Group - the biggest fungal research group in Britain and one of the largest in the world – will head the new ‘Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology Consortium’ which will also be supported by scientists at Imperial College London and the Universities of Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Kent, Exeter and other UK institutions.

Professor Neil Gow, Chair in Microbiology at the University of Aberdeen, is Director of the Consortium. He said: “People are very familiar with superficial fungal infections, such as ringworm and athlete’s foot, which affect approximately a quarter of the world’s population and are usually easily treated.

“Fungal infections of the mouth and genitals are also common – thrush is estimated to affect 75 million women each year while oral infections are common in babies and denture wearers. Again these can be treated relatively easily in healthy patients.

“However invasive fungal infections - infections in the major organs of the body - are associated with high mortality rates. Immunocompromised patients, such as cancer, trauma and HIV patients; and people who have undergone bone and organ transplants, are more susceptible to fungal infection.For example, a patient who contracts septicaemia caused by the fungal pathogen Candida, has only a 60% chance of surviving it.”