‘Nanoweapon’ to be used in the battle against fungus

Fungal treatment through bacteria
iStock-Suzanne Bainton

A new research program will soon be investigating whether a ‘nanoweapon’ could be used in the battle against fungal infections.

Certain bacteria can inject toxic proteins that kill harmful fungi using a molecular syringe. This type of molecular syringe is named Type Six Secretion system.

A collaborative project led by the University of Dundee will work with colleagues at the University of Exeter and universities of Newcastle and Heriot-Watt, and the Hans Knöll Institute in Germany has been funded by Wellcome to understand the role and possible exploitation of this form of inter-microbial warfare.

Approximately 2 million people die from fungal infections every year. This number is set to increase if certain strains of drug-resistant fugal infections continue to spread around the globe.

Professor Neil Gow, of the University of Exeter, is a co-investigator on the award. He said: “Infectious diseases caused by fungi represent a major but relatively under-researched threat to global health.”

We will now investigate how this new form of microbial warfare works and assess whether we can take advantage of this discovery for example, in developing new drugs that are effective against fungi – including strains that are antifungal drug resistant.”

Dr Sarah Coulthurst, from the University of Dundee, who is leading the program, said: “We believe that this ability of bacteria to attack fungal cells, including those that cause disease, is important in many microbial communities, including those associated with health and disease. In this collaborative project, we will combine our expertise in bacterial and fungal biology with cutting-edge molecular techniques, to investigate the role played by anti-fungal Type VI secretion systems and to understand the molecular details how these systems kill fungal cells.

“We hope that understanding how bacteria can kill fungi might allow us to develop better ways to tackle antimicrobial-resistant infections caused by both bacteria and fungi.”


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