A Look Through Zebrafish Understanding fungal infections in cystic fibrosis patients
Do you know that we inhale hundreds of fungal spores, including Aspergillus fumigatus, each day A healthy lung is perfectly able to cope with that and no harm will be done to the lung tissues. In cystic fibrosis patients, the Aspergillusfumigatus spores will be trapped in their sticky mucous in the airways. It remains unclear, however, how this leads to Aspergillus infections in those patients. Therefore, we are developing a zebrafish model to study in detail the interaction between cystic fibrosis immune cells and Aspergillus fumigatus. The choice to use a zebrafish model is due to its transparency and easy ways to visualise this interaction. Our results are expected to help us to findan answer why cystic fibrosis patients are
suffering from Aspergillus infections andpotentially will lead to new directions in treatment.
The hostpathogen struggle for nutrients
We can view an infection as a battle between the human host and the microbial invader. The outcome of which decides whether the host remains healthy or succumbs to disease. As this battle ragesmicrobial invaders use their hosts as a source of nutrients. However, the human body has evolved complex systems to limit access to certain essential nutrients in an attempt to starve the invading microbes and prevent disease. We call these processes nutritional immunity. Therefore, to win the battle and cause disease microbial pathogens must have evolved strategies to thrive in a nutritionally restrictive environment within its infected host.
We are interested in exploring how the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans adapts to limitations to essential trace nutrient zinc. We have identified specific coping mechanisms that are adopted by this fungus in order to deal with nutritional immunity. In response to zinc starvation, Candida albicans dramatically changed their cell shape. We therefore want to know how this change is regulated and what impact it has on the progression of infection with the ultimate aim to therapeutically manipulate the system and push the balance back in favour of the human host to prevent disease.