Dynamics of Aspergillus fumigatus in azole-fungicide-containing plant waste, the Netherlands, 2016-2017

Jianhua Zhang*, Lidia Lopez Jimenez, Eveline Snelders, Alfons J.M. Debets, Anton G. Rietveld, Bas J. Zwaan, Paul E. Verweij, Sijmen E. Schoustra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The treatment of patients suffering from Aspergillus diseases is hampered due to infections with Aspergillus fumigatus that are already resistant to medical azoles. Previous work has suggested that A. fumigatus likely gains resistance through environmental azole exposure in so-called hotspots. Here, we investigated A. fumigatus resistance dynamics over time, at three sites at which farmers used azole fungicides for crop protection. Over 16 months 114 samples were taken from stockpiles of decaying plant waste. A. fumigatus and azole fungicide residues were ubiquitously present in the plant waste. On average 105 A. fumigatus CFU/g was recovered of which roughly half were itraconazole and tebuconazole resistant. Similar tandem repeat-mediated resistance mechanisms were found in colonies cultured from plant waste as reported in clinical azole-resistant isolates. Our results show a consistent high burden of azole-resistant A. fumigatus in azole-containing plant waste and underscores the need to further investigate resistance-reducing interventions and transmission routes.

Importance Aspergillus fumigatus is consistently present independently on season at a high abundance in plant-waste material throughout sampling period. Our study confirmed that long-term storage of azole-containing decaying plant material indeed be considered hotspots, which can sustain resistance development and maintenance in A. fumigatus. Roughly half of individual isolates were azole-resistant and carry genetic mutations that are highly similar to those found in patients with azole-resistant invasive aspergillosis. Our work suggests that environmental sources of azole resistance in A. fumigatus might be important, underscoring the need for further studies on environment-to-patient transmission routes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02295-20
Number of pages12
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Early online date30 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2021


  • azole resistance
  • composting
  • cyp5IA
  • DMIs
  • environmental heterogeneity
  • long-term population dynamics
  • longitudinal study
  • plant waste stockpile
  • triazoles


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