Researchers Make A Breakthrough In Fighting Pneumocystis


Scientists have developed a promising model for studying a pneumonia-causing fungus that is otherwise difficult to culture in the lab.

Researchers at Tulane University School of Medicine used precisely cut slices of lung tissue to study the species of Pneumocystis—these species cause Pneumocystis pneumonia in immunosuppressed children and adults.

This research tackles a major hurdle, which is the difficulty of growing the pathogen outside a living lung, for scientists to be able to test drugs easily to fight infections.

WHO ranked this fungus number 19 on the fungal priority pathogens list recently.

Corresponding author: Dr. Jay Kolls, John W Deming

Pneumocystis is likely the most common fungal pneumonia in children and attempts at culturing the organism have largely not been successful,

Thus, we have not had new antibiotics in over 20 years as they have to be tested in experimental animal studies.

Kolls added,

This is the first time both the trophic and ascus forms of Pneumocystis have been maintained long-term outside a mammalian host, 

The model’s suitability for in vitro drug testing was confirmed by the researchers. The expression of Pneumocystis genes was reduced when treated with regularly used drugs such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and echinocandins. Indicating successful fungus targeting.

The Tulane approach produces several homogeneous lung tissue samples for research from a single lung, allowing for high-capacity testing.

Kolls said,

With optimization, we believe precision lung slices could enable actual growth of Pneumocystis and become a powerful tool for developing new medications to treat this infection,

This could significantly accelerate research on this pathogen.


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