(Picture: Research team of the Molecular Microbiology & LabDia Labordiagnostik / Copyright: Gerhard Wasserbauer)
FUNGITECT – An ambitious project under the leadership of the St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute funded by the European Union, which aims at changing the paradigm of fungal diagnostics.
Fungal infections constitute an ever-growing significant medical problem causing enormous costs for healthcare worldwide. Invasive fungal disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in severely immunocompromised individuals, particularly in patients with haematological malignancies, bone-marrow and organ transplant recipients, long-term intensive care unit patients, preterm neonates, and patients with inborn or acquired immune deficiencies. Invasive fungal disease and the associated treatment costs exceed billions of euros per year in Europe alone, representing an enormous burden to healthcare systems.
Overtreatment and drug resistance
The widespread use of prophylactic or empirical treatment without firm evidence of invasive fungal disease leads to a high rate of overtreatment associated with considerable toxic side effects, and broad-spectrum antimycotic therapy administered against unidentified fungal pathogens can promote the evolution of clinical drug resistance.
In recognition of this important medical problem, the European Union is supporting this ambitious 4-year project termed FUNGITECT with the aim of optimising diagnostics for improved treatment stratification of invasive fungal diseases. Prof. Thomas Lion, MD, PhD, of the St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute is the coordinator and scientific leader of this multinational project in which St. Anna collaborates strategically with five partner organisations, including the Medical University of Vienna, the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Germany, the University of Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the SMEs Genedata in Switzerland and Molzym in Germany.
“Ultimately, the goals of this project are on one hand to establish rapid and inexpensive tests for fungal screening and disease monitoring, and on the other hand to establish advanced technologies for species identification, resistance testing and prognostic host vs. pathogen interactions based on bioinformatics technology”, says Prof. Thomas Lion, MD, PhD, Head of the Division of Molecular Microbiology at the St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute and Medical Director of LabDia.