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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July 2005, 19:41 GMT 20:41 UK
Killer fungus's sex life revealed
aspergillus (Photo from Fungal Research Trust/ thanks to Niall Hamilton)
The fungus causes respiratory infection in thousands every year
The sex life of a potentially life-threatening fungus is being studied by researchers in Nottingham.

The idea is to find new ways to control the disease Aspergillus fumigatus, which causes respiratory infection in 5,000 people in the UK every year.

The disease is a major cause of respiratory allergy.

Nottingham's Dr Paul Dyer, leading the scientists, said: "The fungus is very common in compost heaps so these might be a hotbed of fungal sex."

They have found it has sexual characteristics, as reported in the current edition of the scientific journal Current Biology.

The fungus has always been thought to lack the ability to reproduce sexually.

'New strains'

Dr Dyer said: "The possible presence of sex in the species is highly significant as it affects the way we try and control disease.

"If the fungus does reproduce sexually as part of its life cycle, then it might evolve more rapidly to become resistant to anti-fungal drugs.

"Sex might create new strains with increased ability to cause disease and infect humans."

Dr Dyer said its sexual cycle could be a useful genetic tool allowing scientists to study the way in which the fungus causes disease.

The team also includes lead researchers Mathieu Paoletti of The University of Nottingham, Carla Rydholm of Duke University in the US and David Denning of the University of Manchester.


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