My laboratory studies the opportunistic pathogenic fungus Candida albicans. C. albicans is part of the normal human microbiota. However, as an opportunistic pathogen it is capable of causing overt disease (candidiasis), but usually only in hosts with defective immunity. The frequency of candidiasis has increased dramatically in the last decades as a result of an expanding population of immunocompromised patients. As a result, candidiasis is now the fourth most common nosocomial infections. The seriousness of this problem is heightened by the fact that, even with treatment using available antifungal agents, mortality rates lie in the 30- 40% range for these infected patients. As an opportunistic pathogen, it is clear that mechanisms of host immunity and pathogen virulence intertwine, giving rise to the highly complex nature of host-fungus interactions. However, the interplay between host immunity and fungal virulence has traditionally been ignored and most investigations into these topics are overwhelmingly “one-sided” which has resulted in a dangerous dichotomy between “microorganism-centered” and “host-centered” views of candidal pathogenesis. Thus, studies in my laboratory try to integrate these two facets to better understand and offer a more global perspective of C. albicans pathogenesis. Results have already provided new paradigms in the host-fungus relationship during candidiasis.Some of the highlights of this research program are:
1) Role of filamentation in virulence.
3) Development of novel immune-based strategies to combat candidiasis