Contact: Robert Wheeler, (207) 581-2890; Aimee Dolloff, (207) 581-3777
ORONO, Maine — Bloodstream infections frequently occur and commonly cause death among critically ill patients. Scientists at the University of Maine may have unlocked the answer to treating one of these infections that kills more than 30 percent of the patients it infects.
“It’s an important clinical problem,” UMaine assistant professor of microbiology Robert Wheeler said.
For years, humans have lived with a fungus on our skin and in our gastrointestinal tracts that typically stays dormant.
It has developed a sort of camouflage that prevents the immune system from eliminating it, while at the same time the immune system is able to prevent the fungus from creating an infection.
It’s what Wheeler calls an “evolutionary give-take relationship.”
The fungus, Candida albicans, normally masks a special sugar in its protective coating that gives the cell rigidity but allows it to be attacked by the immune system.
The sugar is called