Navigation and steering systems in fungal pathogens – the route to fatal infection

Year of award: 2017


  • Dr Alexandra Brand

    University of Aberdeen

Project summary

Invasive candidiasis is a fungal disease caused by Candida albicans and affects about 250,000 hospitalised patients a year. Candidiasis can be fatal if the fungus colonises internal organs such as the lung, liver, spleen, kidneys and bone.

This research aims to understand how microscopic fungal filaments can penetrate human body tissue so effectively. We know they use an internal steering mechanism to navigate through their environment which is essential for tissue penetration. Our research goals are to find out how the steering mechanism works and how the fungus responds to the internal environment of the human body. We cannot study the fungus inside humans so we will use cells and biomaterials that mimic the tissues the fungus encounters during infection. We will also find out whether cells of the immune system respond differently to the fungus in these surroundings and we will find out whether the steering defects we have discovered affect the ability of the fungus to invade living tissue and activate immune cells using the transparent larvae of zebrafish.

This research will give us important insights as to how the fungus behaves in living tissue and how it disseminates to diverse internal organs during infection.