Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Toss in the Plasma Grenade

Humans get infected by fungi regularly, and some of the most common culprits are the Candida species. The top fungal disease is candidiasis, which is caused by these yeasts.
Candidiasis can infect a wide number of areas on the human body including skin, nails, genitalia, even the mouth where it is known as thrush. Most of the time these infections are just superficial, but some can become quite severe or even life-threatening. The more dangerous infections are known as candidemia.


With the clinical importance of this genus, it is no surprise that there are a myriad of researchers studying ways to combat infection. In fact many of today's antifungal drugs are effective against it, however the yeast form is known to grow hyphae into sheaths called biofilm.
Now a group of scientists lead out of Peking University, China is looking into a new tool for fighting Candida called non-thermal plasma. They are also trying to see if their method could improve the effectiveness of already established antifungal drugs on the more resistant biofilm growths.

Inactivation of Candida Biofilms by Non-Thermal Plasma and Its Enhancement for Fungistatic Effect of Antifungal Drugs

Basically the group grew ten Candida strains: 4 C. albicans, 3 C. glabrata, and 3 C. krusei and coaxed them to produce biofilms in microtiter plates. Then they treated the films with a series of timed exposures to a non-thermal plasma micro-jet. They used a mix of 98% He and 25 O2 to produce the plasma.

Huge success! They saw a dramatic decrease in the activation of yeast into new biofilm.

They then repeated this method, only while also utilizing common antifungal drugs: amphotericin B, fluconazole, and caspofungin. These drugs work great, but have troubles with those previously mentioned biofilms. This problem is increasingly important, as these filaments can adhere and grow on medical utensils and devices. But, luckily, the team yet again saw a dramatic decrease in biofilm activation and thus an increase of susceptability to the antifungals.

In today's world, where we can see a new fungal disease arise through hybridization(I know that was a plant disease, but it still applies) it is important to constantly find new ways to fight infections. Techniques like those lain out here appear to be very good steps to not only create new and novel methods, but combine them with those already known to produce magnified results. We need to keep these practices coming, to stay out in front of the creeping molds just waiting to crawl over our corpses.

Study Credit: Yi Sun, Shuang Yu, Peng Sun, Haiyan Wu, Weidong Zhu, Wei Liu, Jue Zhang, Jing Fang, Ruoyu Li

Photo credit: James Heilman, MD

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