Scientists have warned that fungal disease pose as big a threat health than malaria and tuberculosis, with long-running world-leading research carried out to further understand the organisms by Aberdeen University.
Researchers have now been given £220,000 from the Alfred P Sloan Foundation to develop a database of “fungal barcodes” that will act as the global resource on previously unknown fungi that thrives indoors.
They will add to the database which currently holds strains of fungus normally found outdoors.
Dr Andy Taylor, from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences, is the Principal Investigator on the project, alongside Professor Urmas Kõljalg from the University of Tartu and Dr Henrik Nilsson from the University of Gothenburg.
Dr Taylor said: “Fungi within buildings are still rather unknown territory as there are simply so many species that we don’t know and which have yet to be identified.
“The project calls for us to generate new data on the major fungal species found in the built environment and develop the tools to be able to compare this reference data with that from unknown samples from buildings.
“The data are effectively barcodes - short pieces of DNA specific to individual fungal species. The fungal barcodes are just like those you scan to identify your shopping items.
“By extracting DNA from fungi in buildings, we will be able to compare this with the reference barcodes in the database and so identify which fungi are present.”
While many indoor fungi will be harmless to health, the research will bring further understanding of the organisms to researchers on the Aberdeen Fungal Group, an academic team of international repute.
Last year, Dr Elizabeth Ballou set up a research project into a fungus which kills 600,000 lives a year.
Cryptococcus neoformans causes an infection as deadly as tuberculosis in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Spores can enter the lungs and cause serious infection, particularly in those with weakened immune systems, and can spread to the brain causing Cryptococcal meningitis.
Fungal infections are particularly serious for those with weakened immune systems such as people with HIV, autoimmune disorders, and people receiving chemotherapy or anti-rejection drugs following organ transplants.