Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine, working in collaboration with St. Mary’s University and Johns Hopkins University, recently made a major breakthrough in better understanding the structure of a key protein that s responsible for facilitating fungal infections in the body. The study was published online on April 7th on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ahead of the print edition.
Researchers report that Candida albicans, the cost prevalent fungal pathogen in humans that is known to lead to yeast infections within the body, as well as cause oral thrush and diaper rash, has been fully mapped. Considering that the fungus can potentially lead to a deadly, life-threatening blood infection known as disseminated candidiasis, these new findings could play a major role in successfully treating Candida albicans in patients.
P. John Hart, Ph.D., a researcher in the South Texas Veterans Health Care System at nd the Ewing Halsell-President’s Council Distinguished Professor of biochemistry at the UT Health Science Center, noted the remarkable detail in the new findings: “In this study, we determined the three-dimensional structure of a never-before-seen cell wall protein called SOD5 that the organism uses as a defense against the human immune system.” Dr. Hart went on to explain that,”SOD5 is a copper-only protein that exhibits significant structural differences from copper/zinc superoxide dismutases (SODs),” and that “because SOD5 molecules are widespread throughout fungi, including C. albicans, but are not found in humans, the structural differences can be exploited to develop compounds that specifically target SOD5 to treat a number of widespread fungal infections.”
The study’s senior author, Valeria Culotta, Ph.D., a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, added that “SOD5 is an unprecedented, very powerful antioxidant protein that enables C. albicans to ward off free radicals of the host immune response.”
Given the fact that some of the conventional treatments for fungal infections currently used, like fluconazole, can potentially damage the liver in some patients. Because of this, being able to craft treatments that specifically target the weaknesses of the protein will not only yield more effective therapies, but also will be markedly safer for patients.