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The fungal steering system: a route to infection

August 16, 2019

Most of us are aware of infections
caused by bacteria, but what we don’t think about is infections caused by
fungi. One of the biggest killers is the fungus Candida albicans which lives
inside us as a harmless round yeast. But in patients with a weak immune
system the fungus can escape into the bloodstream where it forms tiny thread
like filaments. These filaments bury down into the tissue below and can form fatal
infections that are very hard to treat in internal organs like the kidney. We are
investigating what makes Candida albicans so good at invading the human
body something most fungi cannot do. What we’ve found is that these microscopic filaments have a sense of direction and they can steer as they grow. This means
that when they become adhered to our skin or our blood vessels, their filaments can probe to find weak points and invade the tissue underneath. Our research aim is to
find ways to disable this steering process because without it the fungus
cannot invade. If we can do this and halt this process we should be able to save
millions of lives every year.

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