In a study published in the PLoS Pathogens, University of Toronto researchers reveal that they have developed a therapy to combat the critically fatal infection widespread in catheters, artificial joints, and other “in-dwelling” medical devices.
The therapy focuses on the hard-to-treat fungal infections in devices because they comprise biofilms (an aggregate of cells that adhere to each other on a surface). In turn, biofilms are coated in a drug-resistant gooey matrix.
In order to get relieve the body of the disease and restrict the scattering of infecting cells throughout the system, patients undergo surgery to remive the infected catheter or other device.
The findings of this study revealed that drug resistance of the two main fungal pathogens, Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus could be eliminated by restricting the function of a protein called Hsp90. Study Principal Investigator and Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease at U of T’s Department of Molecular Genetics, Prof. Leah Cowen, said: “It takes classic antifungals, which were not effective against biofilms, and makes them very effective.”
Researchers managed to eliminate infection in an animal model of a central venous catheter infected with deadly fungus by restricting Hsp90 and applying antifungals.
Fungal pathogens are a grave clinical concern. Candida albicans is implicated for being the third biggest cause of intravascular catheter-related infections causing fatalities in nearly 30% of infections linked with devices. Moreover, the last two decades have witnessed more than a 20% rise in the number of acquired fungal infections in the bloodstream. This can be partly attributed to successful treatments for diseases such as cancer and AIDS, which were considered as fatal previously, rendering several patients immune-compromised and vulnerable to infection.
There is an urgent need to study biofilms and establish their role in drug resistance of fungal pathogens as over 10 million patients are in receipt of catheters, artificial joints, and other devices annually.