It is estimated that up to 200,000 people globally die from fungal lung infections (Aspergillosis). Now, the EU-funded Fp7 MATHIAS project has developed an imaging technique to help doctors fight this huge killer of patients with weakened immune systems.
The new test involves attaching radioactively labelled antibodies to the infecting structures formed by the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus.
These fungal spores (conidia) are inhaled every day and do not usually cause a problem for healthy individuals. However, in patients who are immunocompromised (e.g. due to leukaemia or bone marrow transplants etc.) they can settle in the lungs and develop into invasive pulmonary aspergillosis.
At present, a definitive diagnosis for the disease is only obtained at autopsy or relies heavily on an invasive biopsy – an extremely unpleasant procedure which is not always applicable in suffering patients.
By using radioactively labelled antibodies in the new imaging method, clinicians researchers were able to image the growing fungus in real-time.