Researchers from the Universitat de València (UV) and the Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have partnered to describe a biological mechanism that generates cells which are better equipped to fight off serious infections caused by the Candida albicans fungus.

The fungus, which is often found in innocuous form in the oral cavity, vagina and gastrointestinal tract, can cause superficial skin and mucus infections in healthy people. It can also cause serious internal or invasive infections in immunodepressed patients and is as such considered an opportunistic pathogenic fungus.

The research, published in Microbes and Infection, analyses the interaction betweenhematopoietic progenitor and stem cells with this fungus. María Luisa Gil, professor or microbiology at the University of Valencia, explains:

“When stem cells interact directly with the Candida albicans microorganism, this leads quickly to the conversion of these cells into mature mieloid cells -neutrophil, monocyte, macrophages and dendritic cells-, which are what fuel our natural immune system, our first defense against infections.”

The fact of stems cells interacting with the C. albicans microorganism is important because until now it was thought that only mature cells recognised and responded directly to microorganisms and derivatives. The study shows that this interaction can lead to the generation of cells that are functionally better prepared to face off an infection.

Indeed, the discovery of this new host/pathogen interaction mechanism and its consquences in the modulation of immune response may provide a new target for intevention in the fight against serious infections.

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