Deadly human pathogen Cryptococcus fully sequenced

Monday, April 21, 2014

[caption id="attachment_15379" align="alignright" width="300"]Scanning electron micrograph shows infectious spores produced by the deadly fungi Cryptococcus neoformans. Scanning electron micrograph shows infectious spores produced by the deadly fungi Cryptococcus neoformans.[/caption]

Duke Today featured a study last week by a group of researchers who have sequenced the entire genome and all the RNA products of the most important pathogenic lineage of Cryptococcus neoformans, a strain of H99 responsible for a million cases of pneumonia and meningitis every year.

The results, which appears April 17 in PLOS Genetics, describe a number of genetic changes that can occur after laboratory handling of H99 that make it more susceptible to stress, hamper its ability to sexually reproduce and render it less virulent.

"We are beginning to get a grasp on what makes this organism tick. By having a carefully annotated genome of H99, we can investigate how this and similar organisms can change and mutate and begin to understand why they aren't easily killed by antifungal medications," said study coauthor John Perfect, MD, professor of medicine and chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, who first isolated H99 from a patient with cryptococcal meningitis 36 years ago.