Good Fungi Can Be Used To Reduce Bad Fungi That Causes Oral Thrush

By Shweta Iyer on March 14, 2014 3:08 PM EDT

Thrush
Anew treatment for oral thrush has been discovered. It uses the therapeutic effects of the beneficial fungal yeast. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Anybody who has suffered from oral thrush or Oral candidiasis, will vouch for the fact that this condition, which causes lesions in the mouth, can be quite painful. But a new treatment for oral thrush has been discovered by Scientists at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and University Hospitals (UH) CaseMedical Center, which uses the therapeutic effects of the beneficial fungal yeast Pichia, to inhibit the spread of oral thrush causing fungal yeast, Candida.

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According to a press release Thursday, the paper states the useful effects of Pichia in the fight against Candida. It was authored by Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, PhD, EMBA, professor of dermatology and pathology at the School of Medicine and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at UH Case Medical Center and his colleagues. It will be published in the March 13 edition of PLOS Pathogens

"Our aim was to try to understand what microorganisms live in our mouths. A disturbed

equilibrium of these microorganisms can lead to disease," said Ghannoum.

Thrush is a common occurrence in HIV-infected patients. Hence the study, which was conducted at the UH Case Medical Center, involved testing the mouths of 24 patients out of which 12 were HIV-infected and the other 12 were not. The oral cavity of the test patients were tested for fungi and bacteria using a powerful new screening method called pyrosequencing.  This is a method of DNA sequencing or determining the order of nucleotides in the DNA that produces more accurate results than conventional, culture based methods.

The results were surprising according to Ghannoum. He said, "When we looked at the data, we found to our surprise that bacteria did not change much between HIV-infected patients and those who were not. However, what changed significantly between the two groups was the composition of the fungal community. We found that when Candida is present, Pichia is not, and when Pichia is present, Candida is not - indicating Pichia plays an important role in treating thrush."

The scientists then tested the effect of Pichia on Candida, inside test tubes. When Candida and Pichia were cultured in the same test tube, there was a marked reduction in Candida's growth. The reason for this inhibition is that Pichia secretes a protein referred to as supernatant that controls Candida.

There are three different ways in which Candida proliferate in host cells. They first create a biofilm around themselves that allows them to produce spores. The spores germinate and finally adhere to the host cells. The supernatant secreted by Pichia controls these three development stages of Candida.

The scientists further tested their theory on three batches of Candida-infected mice. The first batch of mice was treated with Pichia supernatant. The next batch was treated with nystatin, a topical treatment for thrush, and the last batch received no treatment. The results were as follows; Pichia treated mice showed almost complete eradication of Candida, except for a few traces and their physical symptoms, such as patchy appearance of tongue, had also improved. Nystatin treated mice showed more Candida presence than Pichia treated ones.

This discovery has led to great optimism among the scientists, who are hopeful that Pichia can, in the future, be used to cure other life-threatening fungal infections. Studies on the biological composition of Pichia supernatant are already underway.

"One day, not only could this lead to topical treatment for thrush, but it could also lead to a formulation of therapeutics for systemic fungal infections in all immunocompromised patients," he said. "In addition to patients with HIV, this would also include very young patients and patients with cancer or diabetes."

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