Genome sequencing may help identify new drug targets for Pneumocystis pneumonia

Washington, Dec mber 27: Scientists have sequenced the genome of the fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii, which is responsible for Pneumocystis pneumonia, a common and often deadly infection in immunocompromised patients.

This could help identify new targets for drugs to treat and prevent

The organism cannot yet be isolated and grown for study in the laboratory, so details about Pneumocystis pneumonia, the biology of P. jirovecii, and its pathogenicity are hard to come by. The genome sequence represents a wealth of new information for doctors and researchers tackling this disease.

Pneumocystis pneumonia is an opportunistic infection that strikes most often in individuals with diminished immune systems.

The disease gained importance in the 1980s, said Philippe Hauser of the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, corresponding author of the study.

“Recognized first among malnourished infants, P. jirovecii pneumonia became a public issue with the advent of the HIV epidemic,” stated Hauser.

Today, the disease most commonly affects HIV-infected persons who are unaware of their status as well as solid organ transplant recipients and patients with hemato-oncologic or autoimmune diseases. Since the organism cannot be grown in the lab for study, researchers have long made do with studying P. jirovecii’s lab-friendly relatives, species that infect animals and plants, in order to explore the secrets of the human disease.

In the study of infectious disease, access to the genome of a pathogen provides new information that can be pivotal in combating the diseases is causes. The hope is that the genome of P. jirovecii will lead to new advances in therapies for those suffering from Pneumocystis pneumonia.

The study was to be published in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology. (ANI)