Defeating infection can be tricky, especially when the offending microorganisms band together to form a seemingly impenetrable biofilm. This is what the fungus Candida albicans does in humans, making treatment challenging. Researchers try to find a chink in their armour by imaging C. albicans biofilms using scanning electron microscopy. They noticed small spheres on the surface of C. albicans (cylindrical structure, pictured) and within the proteinaceous extracellular matrix (ECM) secreted by the fungus (mesh-like structure, pictured). The spheres resemble extracellular vesicles – sacs of cell contents important for inter-cell communication – and the matrix is thought to be what makes biofilms intractable. By creating C. albicans mutants that couldn’t produce extracellular vesicles the team found that the fungi still formed biofilms but lacked ECM and were now vulnerable to anti-fungal drugs. Extracellular vesicles therefore appear to be essential for delivering materials that comprise the ECM, making them ideal targets for new treatments.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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