Fungal pathogens tap human iron stores to survive immunity

(c) Michael Riedelberger

Infections by human fungal pathogens cause about 1.5 million deaths each year – interfering with iron utilization in the fungus promises new therapeutic approaches.

Candida species, the most prevalent opportunistic human fungal pathogens, affect severely immunocompromised individuals, and can cause severe invasive infections. The steep increase in infections by multidrug-resistant Candida glabrata pathogens has been posing serious therapeutic challenges. The prime risk factor for Candida infections is a severe immunosuppression, as often seen in the ageing population, microbial super-infections, organ transplantation patients, HIV cohorts as well as neonates. The research group led by Karl Kuchler at the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna, has discovered for the first time, how the fungus Candida glabrata can tap the host iron pools and use this essential metal ion scavenged from immune cells to escape immune defenses. These results have been published in the journal "Cell Host & Microbe" and also point to potential new ways of combating the pathogenic fungus in the human host by blocking iron accumulation in the pathogen.

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