Neutron scattering experiments have provided new insights into the origin of the side effects of an antifungal drug prescribed all over the world. The analysis conducted by scientists at King's College London and the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, and published in Scientific Reports, follows 40 years of debate and could help drug developers reduce these harmful complications.
Wherever you are in the world, indoors or outdoors, the air you breathe contains fungal spores. Though occasionally linked with allergies, asthma or skin irritations, the majority are easily dealt with by the body's immune system.
A far greater risk is posed to individuals whose immune systems are already compromised such as those infected with HIV, severe burn victims or those having just undergone chemotherapy.
Treatment with AmB
The most successful treatment to date is an antibiotic first developed in the 1950s called Amphotericin B (AmB) which was shown to attack fungal cells. The drug is highly effective. Mortality rates associated with these types of fungal infections in vulnerable patients are about 80% without treatment, yet fall below 30% when treated with AmB.
However in the past 20 years there has been a dramatic rise in cases of the fungi developing antibiotic resistance. This has necessitated the prescription of increased doses of AmB which unexpectedly produced severe and sometimes lethal side effects. Tests have shown that at these heightened doses nearly 50% of patients suffer from some form of kidney poisoning. In one study 15% of patients on the drug were forced to go on kidney dialysis. In less common cases AmB can even lead to complete failure of the kidneys, liver or even the heart.
The accepted explanation of AmB as an antibiotic has been that it combines with molecules found in the membrane to create barrel shaped holes which allow cell material to leak out or harmful material to get
|Contact: James Romero|
King's College London