Genetic vulnerability to yeast infections discovered

Yeast infections, which are typically caused by Candida albicans, arise from imbalances in the body's internal flora, especially in the vaginal tract, although it can affect the nail beds, mouth and bloodstream.

The vagina is a finely tuned ecosystem with almost a dozen bacteria and yeast forms, and as long as they're in harmony, it's comfortable. However, if some of the normal bacteria are eliminated by, for example, antibiotics, the yeast population can multiply. A healthy body is able to detect the first signs of a yeast infection and dispatch immune cells to take care of the problem, but when a gene mutation is present, this does not happen
Dr Narendra Kumar, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy in Kingsville looked at one woman and her three sisters who had recurring vaginal yeast infections. They discovered that her immune cells did not react normally on encounter with Candida. Neither she nor her sisters had any other recurrent or severe infections, indeed they were perfectly healthy, which underscores that this mutation is very specific, and just affects the susceptibility to mucosal Candida infections, not to Candida bloodstream infections or to other microorganisms. The mutation was found in the dectin-1 gene. Click here for the full research.

The second study looked at 36 members of an extended Iranian family, several of whom had a predisposition to yeast infections. Three died during adolescence, two after invasive fungal infections of the brain. This time, the mutation was found in the CARD9 gene, also involved in the immune system.
Click here for the full research.

Both studies referred to the same sort of immunological pathways that are triggered in Candida type of infections.
The two papers appeared in the Oct. 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


More research on candid

First Published in October 2009

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