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Infectious fungus may just be having sex July 13, 2005 - Science Daily
MANCHESTER, England, July 13 (UPI) -- A study released Wednesday suggests a fungus that causes life-threatening infections in humans may just be having sex.
Researchers at Britain's Nottingham and Manchester universities said Aspergillus fumigatus, a fungus long linked to asthma, had always been thought to reproduce asexually. But now studies indicate the fungus has a series of genes required for sexual reproduction.
The discovery reportedly is important in understanding the way diseases caused by the fungus are treated.
"The possible presence of sex in the species is highly significant as it affects the way we try and control disease," said Professor David Denning of The University of Manchester. "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."
The analysis of 290 specimens worldwide showed the fungus is composed of nearly equal proportions of two different sexes or "mating types." Additional studies in Europe and America showed genes had been, or were being, exchanged between individuals of the fungus.
The discovery, announced today, is detailed in the journal Current Biology. The work was led by Paul Dyer at the University of Nottingham.
The study also found that genes had been, or were being, exchanged between individuals of the fungus and that some key genes involved with detecting a partner were active in the fungus.
"Taken as a whole, the results indicate that the fungus has a recent evolutionary history of sexual activity and might still be having sex so far 'unseen' by human eyes," Dyer said.
An offbeat thought: "The fungus is very common in compost heaps so these might be a hotbed of fungal sex," Dyer said.