Probiotics change the environment in the intestine and thus force the yeast Candida albicans to change its metabolism. This makes it less infectious. A study now shows how intestinal cells actively promote bacterial growth to protect them.
The yeast fungus Candida albicans naturally colonizes the human body, especially the intestines. As a rule, it does not cause any problems there, as the immune system and a good intestinal flora keep it in check. However, if the microbiome in the gut is out of balance or the immune system is severely compromised, it can C. albicans get into the bloodstream. This can be life-threatening for immunocompromised people in intensive care units.
Intestinal cells and their army of lactic acid bacteria
Researchers at Leibniz-HKI have now discovered that human intestinal cells play an important role in fighting fungal infections C. albicans to play. “The intestinal cells nourish lactic acid bacteria, which multiply as a result and in turn take nutrients away from the yeast,” explains first author Raquel Alonso-Roman. Due to the new conditions C. albicans forced to adjust their own metabolism. In doing so, the fungus has to lose certain properties, which makes it less infectious. The addition of probiotics creates a balance in the gut between yeast, lactic acid bacteria and the rest of the microbiome that restores the healthy state.
infections with C. albicans, such as vaginal infections, are sometimes successfully treated with lactic acid bacteria. “We already know that lactic acid bacteria in particular counteract a fungal infection, prevent it or even kill the fungus. Our work now addresses the question of how,” explains Bernhard Hube, head of the Microbial Pathogenicity Mechanisms department.
Yeast adjusts its metabolism
Together with systems biologists from the institute, the researchers developed computer models that can predict how the lactic acid bacteria of the species Lactobacillus rhamnosus behave when on C. albicans meeting. “Using data from previous studies, our computer models can predict that the lactic acid bacteria will multiply and eventually C. albicans counteract this,” explains Mark Gresnigt, junior research group leader at the Leibniz-HKI.
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Subsequent experiments in the laboratory showed, however, that the bacteria did not multiply as predicted in conventional culture media. “It was only when we added intestinal cells that the lactic acid bacteria began to multiply,” Gresnigt continues. Together with Slavena Vylkova’s junior research group, the researchers were able to find out how the yeast changes its metabolism in order to adapt to the new conditions. Since there are no longer enough nutrients in the intestine, there is an adjustment in the gene activity of C. albicanswhich makes the yeast fungus less infectious and can no longer damage the intestinal cells.
Use the effect without actually using probiotics
The results of this research represent an important step in the fight against life-threatening fungal infections. “We want to find out how probiotics fight the infection. With this knowledge, we may be able to develop measures to prevent the fungus from aggressive behavior. That means we affect the fungus in the same way that probiotics would, without actually using them,” explains Hube. In immunocompromised patients in particular, it is usually too dangerous to use living bacteria as a remedy.
This article is based on a press release of the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology. We have the study for you here and linked in the text.
Image source: Life Perchik, Unsplash