University of Portsmouth scientist handed £400,000 grant to fight fungal infections

RESEARCH Dr Tony Lewis
RESEARCH Dr Tony Lewis

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A SCIENTIST has been awarded almost £400,000 to discover how to fight fungal infections.

Dr Tony Lewis, of the University of Portsmouth, has identified a protein, Tok1, hidden in fungi.

If he can unlock its secrets, it could open the door to scientists designing more effective drugs and antifungals with fewer side effects.

Dr Lewis, of the University’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, was awarded the grant for three years’ research by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

He said: ‘Fungal cells are similar to human cells, which makes it difficult to design drugs that don’t cause side effects, some of which can be extremely harmful.

‘More alarmingly, similar to bacteria, fungal cells are becoming resistant to current antifungal treatments. It is the Holy Grail to find targets in fungi that don’t exist in humans because that would allow drugs and fungicides to be developed which don’t also harm us.

‘Most fungal infections from dandruff to athlete’s foot to thrush are not life-threatening, though they are annoying.

‘However, fungal infections can also be very serious. Patients undergoing chemotherapy, treatment for HIV, or organ transplantation, have a weakened immune system which opens the way for fungal infections which can be deadly. Babies and the elderly are also high risk.’