Known to adhere to almost any surface, and a well-known cause of potentially deadly infections, the Candida auris (C. auris) fungus has evolved over decades to become infectious to humans, with the number of infections increasing steadily year on year.
C. auris has been identified in over 33 countries on three continents, resulting in many deaths; however, it was first detected and documented in the ear canal discharge of a patient in Japan. Shortly after, the fungus saw a dramatic increase in the number of infections diagnosed throughout the world.
C. auris has proven to be a tenacious fungus and shows resistance to multiple antifungal drugs. Microbiologist, Darian Santana, reported that when trying to treat the fungal infection, it tends to end up on all the surfaces around a patient, making it difficult to contain. This is especially concerning because it is able to survive through the most intensive cleaning procedures, regardless of the surface area. The fungus is able to stick rigidly due to a specific protein in its system.
Many fungi generate an adhesive protein that relies on hydrophobic interactions to stick onto a variety of hydrophobic or water-repellant surfaces. According to Santana and colleagues, C.auris also carries adhesion proteins but primarily sticks itself on surfaces using electrical charges.
C.auris consists of a particular protein known as SCF1, which contains positively charged amino acids that create attraction with negatively charged surfaces i.e., skin, catheters, and other medical devices. It sticks to surfaces similarly to how barnacles stick to boats.
At present, there is no surefire method of completely treating this type of fungal infection. Still, a potential way of tackling C.auris is by turning off the production of the SCF1 protein to slow down the spread of the fungus amongst the infected. However, if a vaccine or antibody can be developed, it could possibly prevent the fungus from binding to surfaces as easily and cut off its means of infection.
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