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The study points to a new weapon in the fight against deadly fungi

  The study points to a new weapon in the fight against deadly fungi
Credit: ACS

Researchers at Monash University have gained insights into how nanoparticles can be used to identify the presence of invasive and sometimes deadly microbes and deliver targeted treatments more effectively.

This study was conducted as an interdisciplinary collaboration between microbiologists, immunologists and engineers led by Dr. Simon Corrie of Monash University's Department of Chemical Engineering and Professor Ana Traven of Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI). It was recently published in the journal American Chemical Society ACS Applied Interfaces and Material .

Candida albicans a commonly occurring microbe, can become fatal when colonizing on devices such as catheters implanted in the human body. While it is often found in healthy people, this microbe can be a serious problem for those who are seriously ill or immunosuppressed.

The microbe forms a biofilm when it colonizes with, for example, a catheter as a source of infection. It then spreads into the bloodstream to infect internal organs.

"The mortality rate in some patient populations can be as high as 30 to 40 percent even if you treat people. When it colonizes, it is very resistant to fungal treatments," said Professor Traven.

"The idea is that if you can diagnose this infection early, then you may have a much higher chance of successfully treating it with current fungal medicine and stopping a complete systemic infection, but our current diagnostic methods are missing. A biosensor for detecting early Stages of colonization would be very beneficial. "

The researchers investigated the effects of organosilica nanoparticles of different sizes, concentrations, and coatings to see if and how they interacted with both C. albicans and with immune cells in the blood.

They found that the nanoparticles were bound to fungal cells, but were not toxic to them.

"They do not kill the microbe, but we can make an anti-fungal particle by binding them to a known anti-fungal drug," Professor Traven said.

The researchers also showed that the particles associate with neutrophils ̵

1; human white blood cells – in the same way they did with C. albicans which remains noncytotoxic to them.

"We have identified that these nanoparticles, and through conclusions of a number of different types of nanoparticles, can be made to interact with cells of interest," Dr. Corrie.

"We can actually change the surface properties by attaching different things; thus we can really change the interactions they have with these cells – that's quite significant."

Dr. Corrie said that while nanoparticles were investigated in the treatment of cancer, the use of nanoparticle-based technology in infectious diseases is behind the nanomedicine field, despite the great potential for new treatments and diagnostics.

"The other unique thing in this study is that rather than using cells grown in culture, we also look at how particles act in whole human blood and with neutrophils extracted from fresh human blood, he said.

Professor Traven said the study had greatly benefited from interdisciplinary collaboration.

"We have assembled laboratories with expertise in infection, microbiology and immunology with a laboratory that has expertise in technology, to do state-of-the-art experiments," she said.

The study reveals key tactics used by deadly fungi

More information:
Vidhishri Kesarwani et al, Characterization of Important Bio – Nano Interactions between Organosilica Nanoparticles and Candida albicans, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2019). DOI: 10.1021 / acsami.9b10853

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Monash University

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The study points again to weapons in the fight against deadly fungi (2019, November 9)
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