Proteins help defend the body from fungal infection

A team of researchers—led by Amy G. Hise, MD, MPH, assistant professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Center for Global Health and Diseases and staff physician at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center—discovered a new way that the body fights off the most common human fungal pathogen.

Candida albicans lives peacefully in the mouths of as much as half of the human population, but under certain conditions it can overgrow, causing an oral yeast infection. About 75 percent of Candida strains are resistant to antifungal drugs, and Dr. Hise says that understanding the body's defenses to the fungus may help speed the development of new strategies to prevent or treat such infections.

Dr. Hise's discovery, published in the May issue of Cell Host & Microbe, demonstrates that a group of proteins called inflammasomes are responsible for activating a protein that fights off Candida infections. "This is a whole family of molecules that people didn't know were involved in fungal infections," she says. "We hope to use this information to develop new therapies."