Pathogenic fungi kill an estimated 1.2 million people every year. The global incidence of life-threatening fungal infections is rising, and the threat to public health from drug resistant isolates and emerging pathogens such as Candida auris is serious and growing. However, despite the global impact of fungal diseases on human health, little is known about the virulence factors that drive pathogenesis. Recently, we discovered that the fungal pathogen Candida albicans secretes a peptide virulence factor called candidalysin, the first cytolytic toxin identified in a fungal pathogen of humans.
Using a bespoke computational algorithm to screen 350 fungal genomes, we have identified 219 new putative toxins in 37 different species of medically relevant fungal pathogens. We hypothesize that some of these molecules are likely to be novel virulence factors that promote fungal pathogenicity and disease progression. Toxins associated with fungi that pose the greatest threat to human health will be prioritised for analysis.
This research project will use biological, cellular, immunological and biophysical techniques to characterise the role of selected toxins in fungal pathogenicity.
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