Researchers discover how to diagnose fungal lung infections in leukemia patients

A research team from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has found a new method of detecting a potentially fatal fungal lung infection in patients being treated for leukemia or who have had an organ transplant.

These patients are particularly vulnerable to infections caused by the disease-causing Aspergillus fungus, a common mold in the environment that easily becomes airborne. Traditionally, infections are diagnosed with X-rays and tests that measure levels of fungal molecules that prompt an immune response in a patient's blood. Unfortunately, these tests can be inaccurate and can contribute to a misdiagnosis.

To discover a new diagnostic method, the team — led by Allan Brasier, MD, director of UTMB's Institute for Translational Sciences — studied patients undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia, bone marrow transplants and lung transplants. The researchers discovered a panel of protein biomarkers to help identify the presence of an Aspergillus fungal infection.

The biomarker panel consisted of eight plasma host response proteins, four abundant protein fragments, a fungal cell wall component (β-D-glucan) and a fungal polysaccharide (galactomannan).

"Our data suggest that addition of host response markers may be important additions to detect [Aspergillus fungal infections], and will provide opportunities for earlier interventions and interventional clinical trials," concluded the study authors.


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