Invasive fungal disease

Every day, clinicians are faced with the immunosuppressed patient with persistent fever that is not responsive to treatment with common antibiotics. The key question is: is this a fungal infection? Invasive fungal disease (IFD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in these high risk patients. Causes of IFD include opportunistic fungi such as Aspergillus and Candida as well as endemic fungi such as Histoplasma or Coccidioides (valley fever).

Diagnosis of IFD is exceedingly difficult using standard procedures such as culture or histopathology. These gold standard approaches lack sensitivity, often require a highly invasive clinical sample, e.g., a biopsy, and can take days to weeks for a result.

The goal of this study is a diagnostic test that can be used for pre-emptive treatment of suspected invasive fungal disease. The approach is detection of polysaccharide antigens that are shed by all of the fungi that may cause IFD. These antigens can be detected in blood or urine. The assay platform will be the lateral flow immunoassay (LFI). LFI produces rapid results, is easy to use and is inexpensive.

This is a cooperative effort with a biotechnology firm, IMMY located in Norman, OK. The Diagnostics Discovery Laboratory will identify antigens that are shared across the fungi that produce IFD and will identify means to produce antibodies that are reactive with these antigens. IMMY will produce immunoassays in lateral flow format and will evaluate assay performance in animal models of IFD.

Project investigators: Beverly Crider, Ph.D. (Co-Principal Investigator; IMMY) and Thomas Kozel, Ph.D. (Co-Principal Investigator, UNR).

Grant support: This study is supported by Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) NIH grant (R41 AI102311A1) Immunoassay for diagnosis of invasive fungal infection, 2011-2013.