Iron block

Researchers explore ways to prevent a fungal infection that’s common in transplant patients who have high iron levels in their tissue.

Transplanted lung tissue with high iron levels is more vulnerable to infection caused by a common mold called Aspergillus fumigatus, according to new research in mice and humans.

About a third of lung transplant patients get the potentially fatal infection. “Iron is like fertilizer for the Aspergillus,” says Mark Nicolls, MD, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine and senior author of the study published Feb. 21 in Science Translational Medicine.

Lead author Joe Hsu, MD, assistant professor of medicine, is studying a method for starving Aspergillus of iron rather than killing it with antibiotics. Nicolls is an inventor on a patent for a chemical solution that captures excess iron and could be applied like a paint during surgery, inhaled into the lungs or injected intravenously.