A Leigh dad who is fighting a little-known fungal disease of the lungs is backing the world's first specialist treatment centre for the condition.
Brian Lowe was on hand to help launch the National Aspergillosis Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
Although receiving scant attention from the medical profession and media, the illness affects hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and attacks the lungs, nose and sinuses.
Aspergillus is a family of fungi, extremely common in the air we all breathe.
But, while most people kill the fungal spores rapidly, others – often with weak immunity – are sensitised to them.
This produces allergic symptoms including asthma, life-threatening pneumonia in leukaemia, lung cancer and organ transplant patients.
Brian, a 59-year-old bricklayer, was unfortunate to contract the disease as he recovered from lung cancer, other tumors and a bout of the superbug MRSA.
Despite seven years of medical woes the father of one considers himself lucky, saying it is a miracle he has survived all he has been through.
He also says he is extremely fortunate that Prof David Denning chose to set up his pioneering clinic so close to the borough.
Brian, of Nel Pan Lane, Leigh, said: "My initial lung cancer was successfully treated by the removal of the top half of one of my lungs, but I have had other problems since including asp-ergillosis.
"I had never even heard of it and my GP was baffled at first as to why I was coughing all this stuff up.
"Antibiotics weren't doing any good. But he had the presence of mind to transfer me back to Wythenshawe where I had previously been treated and this disease was diagnosed."
The National Aspergillosis Centre will focus on another form of the disease – a chronic pneumonia which leaves cavities in the lung – and link specialist consultants, nurses, surgeons, radiologists and researchers to reduce deaths and deliver a better quality of care for patients.
Centre Director Prof Denning said: "Over the past few decades, the incidence of invasive aspergillosis has risen steadily.
"It is now the most common invasive mould infection worldwide. Mortality is almost 100 per cent if the disease is left untreated. It occurs in up to 25 per cent of all leukaemia patients and is the leading infectious cause of death in many transplant centres.
"Here at UHSM research carried out is looking at the ways we can grow our knowledge of the disease."
TV doctor and acclaimed GP Dr Chris Steele officially opened the centre.