Tulip bulbs imported into Ireland may be helping to spread resistance to vital anti-fungal medicines according to a new study.
Professor of Clinical Microbiology at Trinity College Dublin, Tom Rogers, led the research that has recently been published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Among the findings are that samples taken from five out of six imported tulip-bulb packages cultured A. fumigatus resistant to Voriconazole - the leading antifungal therapy in Aspergillosis - while some isolates showed cross-resistance to other Triazole antifungals.
Triazole antifungals are the go-to drugs for medical practitioners charged with treating infections caused by the common fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. These drugs are vital in warding off Aspergillosis, which can cause potentially fatal pneumonia.
Prior work had already confirmed that resistant fungi can also be found in the environment, so, once arrived and established, the threat may extend far beyond the life of the pretty flowers with which it has just been associated.
Professor Rogers said: “Aspergillosis is a major risk in our immunocompromised transplant patients. We were aware of reports from the Netherlands of this type of resistance and its possible link to the widespread use of Triazole antifungal drugs as fungicides in agriculture and floriculture which may be selecting it out in the environment.
"We have an ongoing surveillance programme, which has shown that these resistant fungi are sometimes present in air and soil samples but what we didn’t think about until now is that they could be arriving here via tulip bulbs shipped from the Netherlands.”
“Given that these fungi can persist for a long time, we are advising people not to plant tulip or narcissus bulbs in or near healthcare facilities or in the gardens of living quarters of patients who are in any way immunocompromised.”