LAPEMI, the UFSM Laboratory for Mycological Research (Laboratório de Pesquisas Micológicas), is dedicated to developing research on fungal disease control in animals and humans. The Laboratory, coordinated by professors Sydney Hartz Alves and Jânio Morais Santurio, unites UFSM professors and undergraduate and graduate students from the courses of Medicine, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine and Biology.
According to Dr. Alves, LAPEMI stands out internationally for its considerable number of scientific publications on the treatment of fungal diseases in animals. Since its establishment in 2001, the laboratory has published around 15 to 20 papers per year, on average, in leading journals of the area, such as the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
One of Dr. Alves’ research focuses is to detect combinations of chemical substances with pharmacological properties, for example, antifungal with antibacterial. This sort of combination results in increased effectiveness when compared to the isolated use of the substances, which is known as a synergistic effect. “When a synergistic effect occurs, you can decrease the dose of the drug, which reduces toxicity and spares the patient’s liver or kidney,” explains Dr. Alves.
The studies carried out at Lapemi have allowed researchers to understand which types of combination can generate faster and more beneficial treatment effects and which combinations should be avoided. “We work with fungi of medical importance, which are difficult to treat and resistant to conventional antifungal agents. If we detect synergy in the in vitro tests, the second step is to perform tests in vivo, using animals, such as mice and rabbits” explains doctoral student in Mycology, Laura Denardi.
|Synergistic effect: An interaction between two or more drugs that causes the total effect of the drugs to be greater than the sum of the individual effects of each drug.
Another important outcome from Lapemi research is the invention of the vaccine denominated Pitium-Vac, developed by Dr. Santurio. The vaccine is used to control pythiosis in horses, a disease caused by the fungus Pythium insidiosum, which develops in marshy areas. “Since there is no drug treatment for this disease, such as antifungals, we ended up developing the vaccine, an immunotherapy of a curative nature, which means, it is given when the animal is already sick,” explains Dr. Santurio.
Since 1998, studies have been conducted in order to develop the vaccine. In 2003, the effectiveness of Pitium-Vac was proven and a paper on the subject was published in the English magazine Vaccine. In 2012, Pitium-Vac was licensed by the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, allowing its production and marketing. “We applied for a patent for this product and with the proceeds collected, Lapemi is able to pay for student grants and laboratory expenses, such as materials, equipment and repairs,” says Dr. Santurio.
Currently, about one thousand doses of the vaccine are sold monthly throughout Brazil. And studies on Pitium-Vac continue: the goal of the laboratory is to amplify its beneficial effect, making it preventive rather than just curative, as is the current formula.
Reporters: Cibele Zardo and Joelison Freitas;
Graphic Design: Taynane Senna and Projetar Industrial Design Company;
Photographer: Joelison Freitas.