MAY 10, 2021 9:00 AM PDT

Our Lungs Carry Fungi

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

For many years, many parts of the human body were considered to be sterile, which is to say, totally free of microorganisms unless there was an infection. But research has revealed that microbes exist harmlessly in many places where it was thought they'd only be harmful, like the human lung. This work has been made possible by advances in genetic technologies that allow researchers to sequence all of the DNA that's present in a sample, like a mouth swab or lung tissue. They can compare those genetic sequences against databases containing genetic data from various species, revealing what's present in the sample.

Candida auris fungal organisms  / Credit: CDC/ Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit / Photo Credit: Medical Illustrator: Stephanie Rossow

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is one of many diseases that's been associated with chronic infection, and researchers have thought that in COPD, pathogenic microbes are allowed to persist in the lung because of problems with immunity. New research has examined samples from the mouth and lungs of about 200 COPD patients and 150 healthy volunteers, who underwent bronchoscopies. This work, part of The Bergen COPD Microbiome study (MicroCOPD), may be some of the first to compare the fungi in lung samples from COPD patients and healthy people.

"Results showed that both healthy and diseased lungs had a different fungal composition than the mouth, suggesting that lungs have a unique fungal environment," said first study author and graduate candidate Einar Marius Hjellestad Martinsen.

The research revealed that the fungus Candida is the dominant fungus in the lungs. There seemed to be no apparent difference in the fungal communities of people with and without COPD. Notably, COPD patients that use inhaled steroids also did not have differences in their fungal communities compared to those who did not use steroids. It's been thought that the immunosuppressive effects of steroids might predispose users to fungal growth.

Some researchers are warning that fungal infections pose a growing threat to public health. Candida is a normal part of the body's fungal flora, but it can also cause disease, like yeast infections or thrush.

"It would be of great interest to further examine if fungal lung infections are caused by fungi that are already present in the lungs," said Hjellestad Martinsen. "If so, emphasis should be placed on these fungi to reveal what triggers are responsible for converting them from being 'friendly residents' of our lungs to disease-causing intruders."

The researchers want to learn more about fungi and bacteria in other lung diseases, and are continuing to investigate the fungal microbiome of the lungs.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Bergen, PLOS One

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Skin Microbiome Analysis Gets Cleaned Up
SEP 23, 2021
Skin Microbiome Analysis Gets Cleaned Up
  Our skin is home to a carnival of millions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that together form the dermal microbio ...
SEP 30, 2021
Microbiology
Malaria Parasite Seems to be Evolving to Evade Diagnostic Tests
SEP 30, 2021
Malaria Parasite Seems to be Evolving to Evade Diagnostic Tests
When health officials are trying to control a disease outbreak, diagnostic tests can be a crucial tool that provides inf ...
OCT 05, 2021
Immunology
Monkey Gene Snares Viruses, Inspires Future Antivirals
OCT 05, 2021
Monkey Gene Snares Viruses, Inspires Future Antivirals
Many of the deadly viruses that affect humans—including Ebola and HIV—have animal origins. These infectious ...
OCT 26, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Glomalin, The Protein that Can Heal the Earth
OCT 26, 2021
Glomalin, The Protein that Can Heal the Earth
Soil quality is growing ever more important as we attempt to feed the growing world population. Our soils are being degr ...
NOV 05, 2021
Microbiology
Second Most Common Malaria Parasite is an Underappreciated Threat
NOV 05, 2021
Second Most Common Malaria Parasite is an Underappreciated Threat
Malaria is the most common infectious disease in the world, and infected over 225 million people in 2019 according to th ...
NOV 07, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
New Model Teaches Us More About Why the Delta Variant is So Infectious
NOV 07, 2021
New Model Teaches Us More About Why the Delta Variant is So Infectious
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact the world, researchers everywhere sprang into action. But studying an infecti ...
Loading Comments...