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Title: Host defences against Aspergillus fumigatus
Author: Robertson, Maura Diane
ISNI:       0000 0001 3526 8355
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1988
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The potential of the filamentous fungus Aspergillus fumigatus to act as an opportunistic pathogen may be related to its ability to resist the host defence network. Whilst phagocytic cells are clearly important in host defences against invading microorganisms their precise role in the killing of A. fumigatus remains undefined. The purpose of this study was to examine the basic interactions between phagocytic cells, from humans and rodents, with spores of A. fumigatus. In particular the mechanisms whereby phagocytic cells bind and kill spores of A. fumigatus, when compared with the relatively non-pathogenic fungus Penicillium ochrochloron were investigated. In order to investigate why people with asthma may develop some hypersensitivity reactions to A. fumigatus, in particular, rather than to the many other fungi in the atmosphere, the possibility that there may be a defect in the handling of the fungus by such patients has been tested. A comparison of the fungal handling by phagocytes from asthmatic patients, both sensitised and unsensitised to A. fumigatus with phagocytes from non-asthmatic subjects has been made. The principal findings from this study are that spores of A. fumigatus bind to the surface of the phagocytic cell yet are relatively resistant to phagocytosis. The spores also fail to trigger the phagocytic cells into releasing the potentially microbicidal reactive oxygen intermediates. These results may be related to a further finding which is that spores of A. fumigatus release a low molecular weight substance (diffusate) which interferes with various aspects of phagocytic cell activation. Spore diffusates were shown to inhibit the phagocytosis of radiolabelled antibody-coated sheep red blood cells and to suppress the spontaneous release of reactive oxygen intermediates by Corynebacterium parvum stimulated mouse peritoneal exudate cells. In addition spores diffusates inhibited the ability of phagocytic cells to spread on glass and reduce the number of phagocytic cells migrating towards a known chemoattractant. Studies on spore killing showed that spores of A. fumigatus opsonised in autologous serum were more resistant to killing by phagocytic cells from humans and rodents than similarly opsonised spores of P. ochrochloron. However, the ability of the phagocytic cells to kill spores of A. fumigatus was substantially increased when the spores were opsonised in sera which had been heat-treated for 30 minutes at 56?C. No increased killing was found with P. ochrochloron. People with asthma sensitised to A. fumigatus showed significant differences in their handling of A. fumigatus in vitro when compared with the control group. Monocytes from these sensitised patients killed significantly fewer spores of A. fumigatus (opsonised in auto? logous sera) whilst their polymorphonuclear leucocytes killed significantly more. No such differences were found for P. ochrochloron. The work reported in this Thesis has given us a clearer understanding of why Aspergillus fumigatus is an important cause of disease in man, and how the defence mechanisms that it has evolved in its natural environment the soil, enable it to act as a saprophyte or parasite in the lungs of humans and animals. The results also suggest a mechanism whereby heat-labile serum components may be an advantage to the survival of the fungus, thus perhaps explaining why it may be a particular problem in the airways of asthmatic patients.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Fungus spores and asthma