Science Snapshot: Taming the Fungus Amongus

Human mucus contains glycans that could one day treat harmful Candida albicans infections.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter

Lisa Winter became social media editor for The Scientist in 2017. In addition to her duties on social media platforms, she also pens obituaries for the website. She graduated from Arizona State University, where she studied genetics, cell, and developmental biology.

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Colorized microscopic view of Candida albicans
Glycans within human mucus inhibit the yeast Candida albicans from changing shapes from a short, round form (right) to a filamentous form (left), which is more likely to lead to infections.
Julie Takagi

The average human body has more than 100 genera of fungi in and on it. The tiny hitchhikers aren’t noticeable most of the time, but occasionally fungal populations fall out of balance and infection occurs. Candida albicans is a yeast found in several areas around the human body. Most of the time, it exists as short, round shapes that are harmless, but can morph into long filaments which are more infectious. In a study published Monday (June 6) in Nature Chemical Biology, researchers suggest that glycans, sugar molecules found in mucus, naturally inhibit the yeast and help keep it constrained to its innocuous form. The scientists state that this discovery could lead to new therapeutics to treat Candida infections.