October 15, 2009 - (BRONX, NY) - The fact that they eat a lot and often may explain why most people and other mammals are protected from the majority of fungal pathogens, according to research from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
The research, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, showed that the elevated body temperature of mammals the familiar 98.6o F or 37o C in people is too high for the vast majority of potential fungal invaders to survive.
"Fungal strains undergo a major loss of ability to grow as we move to mammalian temperatures," said Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D., chair and professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein. Dr. Casadevall conducted the study in conjunction with Vincent A. Robert of the Utrecht, Netherlands-based Fungal Biodiversity Center, also known as Centraalbureau voor Schimmelcultures.
"Our study makes the argument that our warm temperatures may have evolved to protect us against fungal diseases," said Dr. Casadevall. "And being warm-blooded and therefore largely resistant to fungal infections may help explain the dominance of mammals after the age of dinosaurs."
There are roughly 1.5 million fungal species. Of these, only a few hundred are pathogenic to mammals. Fungal infections in people are often the result of an impaired immune function. By contrast, an estimated 270,000 fungal species are pathogenic to plants and 50,000 species infect insects. Frogs and other amphibians are prone to fungal pathogens, one of which, chytridiomycosis, is currently raging through frogs worldwide. Fungi are also important in the decomposition of plants.
In their study, the researchers investigated how 4,082 different fungal strains from the Utrecht collection grew in temperatures ranging from chilly 4o C or 39o F to desert hot 45o C or 113o F. They found that nearly all of them grew well in temperatures up to 30o C. Beyond that, though, the n
|Contact: Deirdre Branley|
Albert Einstein College of Medicine