Pathogenic, or disease-causing, yeast infections such as Candida albicans often build up strong defence barriers, called biofilms, which are resistant to our immune system and to many drugs. Pictured here under a microscope, a gene from C. albicans called PGA22 has been artificially inserted into hundreds of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells (stained in blue), changing the structure of their cell walls and forcing them to clump together, much like C. albicans yeast do when forming biofilms. Investigating how single genes can have such profound effects on microscopic life is interesting by itself, but may also provide an exploitable weakness in biofilm defences. C. albicans lives naturally and harmlessly in our guts, but sometimes overgrows when the immune system is weakened. Preventing this could help to fend off candidiasis, a cause of muscle and joint pain and nasty skin conditions.
Written by John Ankers
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