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.