BACKGROUND: Aspergillus fumigatus is a ubiquitous saprotrophic fungus and an opportunistic pathogen of humans and animals. Humans and animals can inhale hundreds of A. fumigatus spores daily. Normally this is harmless for humans, but in case of immunodeficiency, invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) can develop with a high mortality rate. A. fumigatus also causes non-invasive mycoses like sino-nasal aspergillosis (SNA) in dogs.
RESULTS: In this study we compared A. fumigatus isolates from humans with suspected IPA, dogs with SNA, and a set of environmental isolates. Phylogenetic inference based on calmodulin (CaM) and beta-tubulin (benA) sequences did not reveal A. fumigatus sub-groups linked to the origin of the isolates. Genotyping and microsatellite analysis showed that each dog was infected by one A. fumigatus genotype, whereas human patients had mixed infections. Azole resistance was determined by antifungal susceptibility testing and sequencing of the cyp51A gene. A total of 12 out of 29 human isolates and 1 out of 27 environmental isolates were azole resistant. Of the azole resistant strains, 11 human isolates showed TR34/L98H (n = 6) or TR46/Y121F/T289A (n = 5). Phenotypically, isolates from dogs were more variable in growth speed and morphology when compared to those isolated from human and the environment.
CONCLUSIONS: 1. A. fumigatus from dogs with SNA are phenotypically very diverse in contrast to their environmental and human counterparts. 2. Phenotypic variability can be induced during the chronic infection process in the sinus of the dogs. The basis of this heterogeneity might be due to genomic differences and/or epigenetic variations. 3. Differences in dogs is a could be a result of within-host adaption and might be triggered by environmental factors in the sinus, however this hypothesis still needs to be tested.