Research identifies how mouth cells resist Candida infection

Candida albicans is a common fungus found living in, and on, many parts of the human body. Usually this species causes no harm to humans unless it can breach the body's immune defences, where can lead to serious illness or death. It is known as an opportunistic pathogen that can colonise and infect individuals with a compromised immune system. New research, presented today at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference, gives us a greater understanding of how mucosal surfaces in the body respond to C. albicans to prevent damage being done during infection.

Researchers from King's College London focused on oral epithelial cells, a mucosal layer of cells that line the mouth, providing a barrier against microbes. The group challenged oral epithelial cells grown in vitro with C. albicans, looking at six and 24 hours after infection.

The results showed that a molecular signalling pathway know as the 'PI3 Kinase pathway' is activated as soon as five minutes after the epithelial cells encounter C. albicans, before the fungus has time to become invasive. This pathway seems to be involved in priming epithelial cells to protect against future damage. Inhibiting the PI3 Kinase pathway increased the amount of damage caused by C. albicans and reduced the normal tissue healing response.

This finding makes the PI3 Kinase pathway an attractive target for new therapeutics against C. albicans. Dr David Moyes, who presented the work at the conference, hopes that by boosting the activity of the pathway it may be possible to reduce the 's ability to cause .

He explains, "We are developing a complete picture of how C. albicans interacts with the epithelial cells that make up our mucosal surfaces and learning how they are able to discriminate between harmless and harmful microbes.

"Many of the symptoms of C. albicans infection, are caused by the body's incorrect or overactive response to cell damage. Developing therapies that act on the patient, not the microbe, provides an entirely novel way of treating an infection and the likelihood of resistance is much reduced."

Candida infections are the third most commonly acquired hospital blood-borne infection, resulting in 50,000 deaths annually. Over 75 per cent of fertile age women will suffer from at least one Candida infection and there are around 2 million cases of oral candidiasis each year among HIV/AIDS patients.

More information: Dr Moyes's talk 'PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling mediates protection of oral epithelial cells from Candida albicans-induced damage' will be presented at 16.15 on Tuesday 3 September at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn Conference 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New compound prevents first steps of fungal infection

Aug 13, 2013

Targeting serious and sometimes deadly fungal infections, a team of researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) has discovered a chemical ...

How a common fungus knows when to attack

Jul 24, 2012

The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans inconspicuously lives in our bodies until it senses that we are weak, when it quickly adapts to go on the offensive. The fungus, known for causing yeast and other minor ...

Recommended for you

A hybrid vehicle that delivers DNA

23 hours ago

A new hybrid vehicle is under development. Its performance isn't measured by the distance it travels, but rather the delivery of its cargo: vaccines that contain genetically engineered DNA to fight HIV, cancer, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.