Effects of microbiome diversity and indole on Candida albicans infections in Caenorhabditis elegans
Name: Jacqueline Spieles
Advisors: Dr. Stephanie Strand, Dr. Richard Lehtinen
The opportunistic fungal pathogen Candida albicans causes infections in humans that are common yet difficult to treat. C. albicans virulence relies upon the organism’s ability to assume a filamentous cell form in a host. The bacterial quorum-sensing molecule indole has been shown to inhibit this filamentation and has become the basis for some anti-fungal drugs. More generally, symbiotic microbes as part of a host microbiome are known to have various protective effects against pathogenic infections in hosts. However, interactions between indole and host microbiomes are poorly understood. This study has aimed to compare and contrast the effects of indole and microbiome diversity on infected host outcomes to help fill this knowledge gap. Using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans, infection killing assays and immune gene expression measurements were carried out to examine differences in survival and immune responses between varying indole and microbiome diversity conditions. One major finding of this work is the additive effect of indole presence and high microbiome diversity on host survival rates. This result may point to a future avenue for the treatment of fungal infections through the merging of drug-based and probiotic-biotherapeutic treatment methods.
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