skip to main content

Study identifies a new way to prevent deadly fungal infection spreading to the brain

25 Aug 2017

Research at the University of Sheffield has identified how the behaviour of an infection can be changed to prevent serious disease.

Cryptococcus neoformans is one of the most significant infections associated with HIV/AIDS. Infection with Cryptococcus causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year worldwide and can also cause disease in people with impaired immune systems, such as solid transplant patients.

Using models of human fungal infection in zebrafish, Dr Simon Johnston and colleagues have discovered that the behaviour of Cryptococcus can be altered so it cannot spread within the body.

Dr Johnston, whose team is part of the University of Sheffield’s Bateson Centre and Florey Institute, which exist to identify new ways to treat infectious diseases, said: “We found that the drug identified by our colleagues at the University of Birmingham, who led the study, prevented Cryptococcus from using the immune system to spread during infection.”

He added: “This research is important because it identifies alternatives to antibiotic treatment for infectious disease. We are using the zebrafish as a model of human immunity to understand how infections can be prevented and treated, especially in people who have damaged immune systems. This research gives us a better understanding of how infections cause disease and will enable us to better pursue alternatives to antibiotic treatment”.

Professor Simon Foster, Director of the Florey Institute at the University of Sheffield, said: “This exciting discovery, involving a member of the Florey Institute, highlights how interdisciplinary approaches are reaping rewards in our ability to understand disease and to propose novel interventions.”

Professor Stephen Renshaw, Director of the University’s Bateson Centre, added: “This research highlights how the zebrafish model can allow new insights into human disease. Ultimately, this will lead to much needed treatments for fungal disease.”

The findings of the study, carried out in collaboration with the Universities of Dundee and Manchester in the UK, as well as the University of Leuven in Belgium and Harvard Medical School in the US, are published in the journal Science Advances.

Results from the research build on the University of Sheffield’s position at the forefront of world-class research into infectious diseases. Scientists at the University are developing radical solutions to the global threat of disease and antimicrobial resistance as part of signature research projects such as Florey, Imagine and the Sheffield Antimicrobial Resistance Network (SHAMROK).

The University is also training the next generation of highly skilled scientists through its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to find exciting new approaches to bioscience and tackle some of the world’s biggest biomedical problems.

Additional information

For more information on studying biology courses at the University of Sheffield, please visit:

Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

Undergraduate courses

Transform Your Future at Sheffield

The University of Sheffield

With almost 27,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

< Back to News