Ecology of aspergillosis: insights into the pathogenic potency of Aspergillus fumigatus and some other Aspergillus species
Paulussen C, Hallsworth JE, Álvarez-Pérez S, Nierman WC, Hamill PG, Blain D, Rediers H, Lievens B
Fungi of the genus Aspergillus are widespread in the environment. Some Aspergillus species, most commonly Aspergillus fumigatus, may lead to a variety of allergic reactions and life-threatening systemic infections in humans. Invasive aspergillosis occurs primarily in patients with severe immunodeficiency, and has dramatically increased in recent years. There are several factors at play that contribute to aspergillosis, including both fungus and host-related factors such as strain virulence and host pulmonary structure/immune status, respectively. The environmental tenacity of Aspergilllus, its dominance in diverse microbial communities/habitats, and its ability to navigate the ecophysiological and biophysical challenges of host infection are attributable, in large part, to a robust stress-tolerance biology and exceptional capacity to generate cell-available energy. Aspects of its stress metabolism, ecology, interactions with diverse animal hosts, clinical presentations and treatment regimens have been well-studied over the past years. Here, we synthesize these findings in relation to the way in which some Aspergillus species have become successful opportunistic pathogens of human- and other animal hosts. We focus on the biophysical capabilities of Aspergillus pathogens, key aspects of their ecophysiology and the flexibility to undergo a sexual cycle or form cryptic species. Additionally, recent advances in diagnosis of the disease are discussed as well as implications in relation to questions that have yet to be resolved.