Background: The clinical importance of airway colonisation by the fungus Exophiala dermatitidis in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) is unclear. We have previously shown that E. dermatitidis frequently colonises the airways of patients with CF. The aims of the present study were to determine whether patients who are colonised by E. dermatitidis have detectable fungal antigens in the circulation, develop anti-fungal antibodies, and show signs of inflammation and impaired respiratory function.
Methods: We collected sputum and serum samples consecutively from 98 sputum-producing patients with CF aged more than 12 years. The serum samples were subjected to bacterial and fungal culturing and analyses for fungal antigens and inflammatory factors.
Results: E. dermatitidis was recovered from 17 (17%) patients, the same isolation rate as for Aspergillus fumigatus. There were no difference regarding the levels of β-glucan in the sera from E. dermatitidis culture-positive and culture-negative patients with CF. Serological analysis revealed significantly higher levels of IgG antibodies to E. dermatitidis cell wall fragments in the E. dermatitidis culture-positive patients. Patients with higher level of E. dermatitidis IgG antibodies were more often colonised with non-tuberculous Mycobacteria, and less often with Staphylococcus aureus. The increased levels of IgG antibodies directed against E. dermatitidis were positively associated with higher white blood cell counts, increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate, pancreatic insufficiency, intravenous antibiotic treatment, and they were negatively associated with respiratory function (FEV1 % predicted). Overall, 4/17 Exophiala-positive patients were diagnosed as having symptomatic infection with E. dermatitidis and were treated with broad-spectrum azoles.
Conclusion: E. dermatitidis triggers antibody production and may cause significant airway infection in patients with cystic fibrosis.
Keywords: Cystic fibrosis; Exophiala; Fungal infection; IgG antibodies.
Copyright © 2014 European Cystic Fibrosis Society. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.