UAB Researchers Studying Deadly Fungal Infection

May 26, 2014

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are hoping to learn more about a deadly fungal infection called Cryptococcus.  The germs are inhaled at a young age and are present in most people.  And most people handle it just fine.  But in some it can develop into fungal meningitis that can be fatal.  UAB professor of medicine Peter Pappas says people with compromised immune systems are the highest risk. 

Peter Pappas: “…like patients with advanced HIV disease or a transplant recipient or people receiving high doses of steroids, or these other immunologic agents that kind of impair your immune system.  It makes sense that they may develop this disease.  It makes less sense as to why otherwise healthy people develop the disease.  It’s never really been understood.” 

Pappas says that’s why the researchers want to gather data on the hosts themselves.

Pappas: “…and ask the question as to whether there’s some small defect in the host’s immune system that allows this disease to express itself, whereas the immune system might be perfectly capable of handling almost every other germ that it encounters.” 

UAB is leading the study but other universities are involved.  It’s made possible by a $500,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health.