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Genetic Polymorphisms and Susceptibility to Fungal Infections

Frédéric Lamoth, MD1, Pierre-Yves Bochud, MD1, and Michael Boeckh, MD2

Invasive fungal infections (IFI) are life-threatening diseases that are of particular concern in specific debilitated or immunosuppressed populations. Invasive candidiasis (IC) is the most frequent of the IFI, being one of the major causes of nosocomial bloodstream infection and a feared complication in patients with recurrent gastrointestinal surgery or prolonged stay in the intensive-care unit [1,2]. Patients with hematological malignancies or prolonged chemotherapy-induced neutropenia, and those with allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT), represent the groups at highest risk for developing invasive aspergillosis (IA), which is associated with a high mortality rate despite the increasing availability of antifungal therapies [3,4]. An increasing incidence of IA has also been reported in non-neutropenic immunosuppressed populations such as solid-organ transplant recipients or steroid-treated patients with chronic pulmonary diseases [5]. Early diagnosis of IFI is crucial for improving chances of survival [6], but is particularly challenging owing to the lack of reliable diagnostic methods [7,8]. Significant efforts during the last few decades have focused on the prevention of these severe complications. Antifungal prophylaxis in high-risk patients has been shown to reduce the incidence of IA in patients with onco-hematological malignancies [9] and that of IC in surgical intensive-care unit patients [10]. However, its widespread use raises concerns about costs, toxicity, and the risk of emergence of resistant fungal species such as non-Aspergillus moulds or non-albicansCandida spp. [4,11,12]. Prophylactic strategies usually rely on the identification of host risk factors resulting from clinical conditions (type and duration of immunosuppression, underlying diseases, and extrinsic interventions) [8,13]. Recent advances in the field of immunogenetics may change our perspective of, and approach to, preventive strategies with the identification of subgroups of patients exhibiting a genetic predisposition to IFI.

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