Discovery of Aspergillus frankstonensis sp. nov. during environmental sampling for animal and human fungal pathogens

Jessica J. Talbot, Jos Houbraken, Jens C. Frisvad, Robert A. Samson, Sarah E. Kidd, John Pitt, Sue Lindsay, Julia A. Beatty, Vanessa R. Barrs

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Invasive fungal infections (IFI) due to species in Aspergillus section Fumigati (ASF), including the Aspergillus viridinutans species complex (AVSC), are increasingly reported in humans and cats. The risk of exposure to these medically important fungi in Australia is unknown. Air and soil was sampled from the domiciles of pet cats diagnosed with these IFI and from a nature reserve in Frankston, Victoria, where Aspergillus viridinutans sensu stricto was discovered in 1954. Of 104 ASF species isolated, 61% were A. fumigatus sensu stricto, 9% were AVSC (A. felis-clade and A. frankstonensis sp. nov.) and 30% were other species (30%). Seven pathogenic ASF species known to cause disease in humans and animals (A. felis-clade, A. fischeri, A. thermomutatus, A. lentulus, A. laciniosus A. fumisynnematus, A. hiratsukae) comprised 25% of isolates overall. AVSC species were only isolated from Frankston soil where they were abundant, suggesting a particular ecological niche. Phylogenetic, morphological and metabolomic analyses of these isolates identified a new species, A. frankstonensis that is phylogenetically distinct from other AVSC species, heterothallic and produces a unique array of extrolites, including the UV spectrum characterized compounds DOLD, RAIMO and CALBO. Shared morphological and physiological characteristics with other AVSC species include slow sporulation, optimal growth at 37°C, no growth at 50°C, and viriditoxin production. Overall, the risk of environmental exposure to pathogenic species in ASF in Australia appears to be high, but there was no evidence of direct environmental exposure to AVSC species in areas where humans and cats cohabitate.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0181660
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2017

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