2. Environmental selection of azole resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus communities
Evolution of azole resistance in Aspergillus communities. Decaying organic material (compost) contains microbial communities consisting of fungi and bacteria. Here, I focus on fungal communities of Aspergillus fumigatus and their evolution towards resistance to fungicides (azoles). There is evidence that the specific community dynamics that involves long-term exposure to azoles, resistance mutations followed by sexual reproduction to recombine various resistance mutations leads to persistent high resistance to both agricultural fungicides as well as medical drugs used to treat patients suffering from fungal infections. Research questions focus on evolution to resistance in the environment, cross resistance to medical drugs, mutational effects, evolution of community structure and the role of sex and recombination to speed up adaptation.
Societal relevance, policy and measures. Environmental selection for azole resistance causes cross- resistance to medical azoles and a public health problem. Informed by policy makers, farmers, processors of plant waste and various practitioners, I have worked on the identification of hotspots and coldspots in the environment for azole resistance development. This work has been published in reports of the RIVM and has been presented to the Dutch National Parliament (Tweede Kamer).
Schoustra SE, Debets AJM, Rijs AJ, Zhang J, Snelders E, Leendertse PC, Melchers WJ, Rietveld AG, Zwaan BJ, Verweij PE. 2019. Environmental Hotspots for Azole Resistance Selection of Aspergillus fumigatus, the Netherlands. Emerging Infectious Disease journal 25. 10.3201/eid2507.181625
Zhang J, Lopez Jimenez L, Snelders E, Debets AJM, Rietveld AG, Zwaan BJ, Verweij PE, Schoustra SE. 2021. Dynamics of Aspergillus fumigatus in Azole Fungicide-Containing Plant Waste in the Netherlands (2016-2017). Appl Environ Microbiol 87. 10.1128/AEM.02295-20
Zhang J, van den Heuvel J, Debets AJM, Verweij PE, Melchers WJG, Zwaan BJ, Schoustra SE. 2017. Evolution of cross-resistance to medical triazoles in Aspergillus fumigatus through selection pressure of environmental fungicides. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284. 10.1098/rspb.2017.0635
Schoustra SE, Zhang J, Zwaan BJ, Debets AJM, Verweij PE, Buijtenhuijs D, Rietveld AG. 2019. New insights in the development of azole-resistance in Aspergillus fumigatus. RIVM, Utrecht. RIVM Letter Report 2018-0131; https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/brieven_regering/detail?id=2019Z20378&did=2019D42537