LOS ANGELES - (Dec. 20, 2013) - Mucormycosis is a deadly infection that strikes people with weakened immune systems when certain types of fungi, called Mucorales, invade the patients' cells. A novel protein on the surface of the Mucorales cells, called CotH, makes this invasion possible.
In a finding that could lead to the development of a vaccine and therapies for mucormycosis, a research team at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) reported today in an online, ahead-of-print study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation that they can prevent human cell invasion and successfully treat mucormycosis in disease models using antibodies that block the CotH protein.
"There are no vaccines or effective therapies available today to halt the highly fatal mucormycosis infection, and there is an urgent need for these strategies to protect patients with weakened immune systems," said Ashraf S. Ibrahim, PhD, an LA BioMed lead researcher and corresponding author for the study. "Our research lays the groundwork for developing the antibodies to prevent and treat mucormycosis in high-risk patients. These findings also could lead to diagnostic tests for the disease."
Patients with weakened immune systems, malnutrition or acidosis (hyperglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis) are at increased risk of infection. Dr Ibrahim's group found treatment with anti-CotH antibodies or CotH-targeted RNAi blocked the cell invasion and protected against mucormycosis. In a commentary accompanying the research, J. Andrew Alspaugh, MD, professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at Duke University Medical Center, discusses how these findings could contribute to the development of mucormycosis therapies.
The study and the accompanying editorial will be published in the Jan. 2 edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. This work was supported by Public Health Service grants R01 AI063503 and R21 AI082414-01; the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through UCLA CTSI Grant UL1TR000124; grant R01 AI054928, and funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, No. HHSN272200900009C. Researchers contributing to the study were: Teclegiorgis Gebremariam, Mingfu Liu, Guanpingsheng Luo, Vincent Bruno, Quynh T. Phan, Alan J. Waring, John E. Edwards Jr., Scott G. Filler and Michael R. Yeaman.
About LA BioMed
Founded in 1952, LA BioMed is one of the country's leading nonprofit independent biomedical research institutes. It has approximately 100 principal researchers conducting studies into improved diagnostics and treatments for cancer, inherited diseases, infectious diseases, illnesses caused by environmental factors and more. It also educates young scientists and provides community services, including prenatal counseling and childhood nutrition programs. LA BioMed is academically affiliated with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and located on the campus of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. For more information, please visit http://www.