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The FIT is trying to raise £130,000 to fund a programme of research to understand the genetics of these fungal illnesses.
A particular form of allergic fungal infection of the lung, called allergic pulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA), complicates not only some severe asthma patients but also those with cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis. These patients develop an allergy to the spores of the fungus, which all of us breathe daily, which leads to lung damage. It is often not recognised until late on and if not spotted and treated with antifungal medicine, this can lead to permanent lung damage called fibrosis.
We already have evidence that indicates genetics is involved. We need to take this research to the next stage – if we understand what role genetics plays in getting this disease – we hope to achieve better outcomes and improve the quality of life for thousands of people.
Many genes are involved, including those associated with the recognition of aspergillus in the lungs and those associated with processing of foreign antigens by the immune system. Some other genetic links which are not yet well understood, relate to cell – cell junctions and proteins (enzymes) called tyrosine kinases which affect cell- cell adherence and communication channels in a cell.
The programme of research will assess how tyrosine kinases work in airways cells in the presence and absence of aspergillus. An assessment of the specific genetic differences in patients with the allergic-type of aspergillus illness will be studied with the goal of improving diagnosis and treatment for sufferers if FIT can raise the funds required.