Candida albicans Gastrointestinal Colonization and Dissemination
Candida albicans, the most common human fungal pathogen, colonizes up to 80% of humans and is now the 4th leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. Surgical patients, premature babies, and cancer patients are particularly prone to developing invasive Candida infections.
We are particularly interested in how commensal anaerobic gut microbiota maintain C. albicans colonization resistance in the mammalian gut. We have shown that specific commensal anaerobic bacteria are critical for inducing gastrointestinal epithelial cells to produce gut immune effectors (such as hypoxia- inducible factor-1α, HIF-1α, and the antimicrobial peptide LL-37/CRAMP) that are essential for maintaining C. albicans colonization resistance. When commensal bacterial populations are disrupted via antibiotic therapy, gut immune effectors are markedly diminished, and Candida populations can overgrow and subsequently cause invasive disease.
We are now in the process of further elucidating both the direct bacterial-fungal and bacterial-host mechanisms that prevent C. albicans from colonizing the mammalian GI tract. By gaining insight into these mechanisms, we hope to apply these findings to human patients with hopes of preventing invasive C. albicans infections.