Prof Sybren de Hoog
Group leader of Clinical and Extremophilic Fungi at the CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre in Utrecht
In clinically relevant fungi, three main ecological groups can be distinguished: (1) commensals, which use products of mammals but not the hosts themselves, (2) pathogens which have an advantage of using a host to increase their fitness, and (3) opportunists which can survive on a human host when they are introduced by coincidence, but infection is not useful for survival of the species. Since the latter group of fungi (group 3) is not adapted to growth in human tissue, infections tend to be severely mutilating, while, in contrast, pathogens (group 2) prefer to keep the host alive as long as possible. Examples are given of long-term evolutionary processes in pathogens leading to our well-known skin and nail infections, and of some novel emerging severe pathogens of which we don’t know the evolutionary origin. As examples of opportunists, black yeast-like fungi will be shown which have an advantage of growth in the (polluted) human-made environment, occasionally causing infections in human patients which then may be severely disfiguring. The evolutionary origin of black yeasts may be in ant- and termite-association, with assimilation of toxic hydrocarbons as a key ability.
Sybren de Hoog is group leader of Clinical and Extremophilic Fungi at the CBS-KNAW Fungal Biodiversity Centre in Utrecht and holds professorships at the University of Amsterdam and several universities outside Europe. He is first author of the handbook ‘Atlas of Clinical Fungi’ and wrote >650 other scientific publications. He is program chairman of the next international congress on medical mycology in Amsterdam.