Vaccination against yeasts could relieve symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. This was reported by June Round’s team from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City in the journal Nature. At least in mice, the new vaccine has already proven itself: Vaccinated rodents render aggressive forms of fungus harmless with effective antibodies.
In addition to bacteria, numerous types of fungi also colonize the intestines of humans and animals. Most of the time, they remain harmless, and potentially disease-causing species are usually kept in check by the immune system. In some people, however, this system becomes imbalanced – this makes them more prone to fungal infections. Round’s research team had now looked for peculiarities that struck these affected people in the interaction of the immune system and fungal colonization.
To do this, the researchers examined samples from humans and mice whose immune systems are less able to cope with fungi. The researchers identified the yeast Candida albicans as the strongest trigger of a defense reaction in which the immune cells released antibodies. The defense molecules then primarily targeted the cells of the tubular hyphae of the fungus. There they docked to proteins on the surface. This rendered the fungus harmless: it needs the surface proteins to penetrate human cells and damage them. A vaccine, which stimulates the body’s defenses to produce the antibodies, protected mice with intestinal inflammation from the damage caused by a fungal infection, the scientists showed.