Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division

Sifting through the immune response to fungal infection

The invasive fungus Aspergillus fumigatus is inhaled into the lungs as dry spores and, in immunocompromised people, can germinate and lead to a dangerous fungal infection.  As a senior fellow at Sloan-Kettering, VIDI assistant member Dr. Tobias Hohl and colleagues looked at the role of the mouse immune system in resisting aspergillus infection with the goal of better understanding how the immune system reacts to aspergillus.  Hohl studied two types of immune cells, alveolar macrophages (white blood cells that reside in the lungs and trap inhaled particles and foreign bodies) and neutrophils (immune cells that circulate in the blood and respond quickly to sites of local inflammation).  Hohl and his group looked at mice lacking either neutrophils or alveolar macrophages and found that mice without neutrophils succumb quickly to aspergillus infection, while mice without the macrophages resist infection. Their findings indicate that neutrophils, but not alveolar macrophages, are important in fighting aspergillus infection.  Understanding which types of immune cells are important in clearing aspergillus infection in healthy people can help inform the development of better treatments for immunocompromised patients.

Essential Role for Neutrophils but not Alveolar Macrophages at Early Time Points following Aspergillus fumigatus Infection.  Mircescu MM, Lipuma L, van Rooijen N, Pamer EG, Hohl TM.  J Infect Dis. 2009 Aug 15;200(4):647-56.