Study: Candida albicans, a yeast infection fungus, evades immune system attack

Study: Candida albicans, a yeast infection fungus, evades immune system attackResearchers have uncovered that Candida albicans, the fungus responsible for vaginal yeast infections and mouth infection thrush, can prevent immune system attacks which can enable deadly infections to enter the bloodstream.

The latest study was conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The immune system works to fight off infection by busting out free radicals from the cells which kills germs. When Candida albicans enters the body copper is used to neutralize the free radicals, thus stopping it from killing the fungus. When the body senses fungus it flushes copper into the bloodstream, allowing copper-starved fungus to enter such places like the kidneys.

Candida albicans, unlike other fungi, has evolved to switch from copper to metal manganese, as observed by researchers. Study lead Valeria C. Culotta said, “What we have found here is a very clever adaptation to changes in copper during infection. The more we learn about this pathogen’s ability to survive inside a human, the more points of vulnerability we may identify.”

When Candida albicans enters the bloodstream it has the potential to be deadly; it can affect the liver, spleen and kidneys. Those with weaker immune systems are more susceptible to the lethal effects of Candida albicans.

Both copper and manganese are found within the human body and are consumed through food. Because of copper’s ability to reduce illness and the spread of germs, some hospitals in the United Kingdom have switched their door handles to copper because germs cannot live on the metal.

Many antifungal treatments work on the surface to kill the fungus, but with a growing resistance in humans to antifungal medications, fungi have been able to evolve thus making them unresponsive to treatment.

Researchers are hopeful that future treatment of Candida albicans will work by disrupting its ability to switch metals.

Fungal infections risk and immune system

Fungal infections are most common in those with impaired immune systems, but typically fungal infections are quite rare. Medications, too, can weaken a person’s immune system making them more susceptible to fungal infections. Medications which treat arthritis, asthma, allergic reactions and autoimmune diseases are commonly found to weaken a person’s immune system.

Some fungal infections, like mouth infection thrush, are non-life threatening, but other fungal infections, like invasive Candida infection, invasive Aspergillosis and histoplasmosis can be lethal.

Candida yeast infection symptoms

Candida yeast infection symptomsFungal infections can appear as viral or bacterial infections which can delay proper treatment of them making them more dangerous. Here are the symptoms of Candida yeast infection in order to recognize it and thus receive early treatment.

  • Itching and irritation of the vagina
  • Burning sensation, more so during intercourse or urination
  • Redness and swelling of the vulva
  • Thick, white, odor-free vaginal discharge

A person can develop a complicated form of Candida yeast infection if:

  • Severe redness and swelling is present
  • Yeast infections are recurrent
  • You’re pregnant
  • You have uncontrolled diabetes
  • You have a weakened immune system either from medications or HIV/AIDS

Causes and risk factors of Candida yeast infection

The cause of a yeast infection is from the fungus Candida. Candida is commonly found in the vagina but is balanced with bacteria. When the balance between Candida and bacteria is disrupted, it allows for overgrowth of Candida which leads to symptoms like redness, swelling and itchiness.

Other causes which can contribute to Candida yeast infection are:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Impaired immune system
  • Anything which changes the balance between bacteria and Candida

Typically, yeast infections from Candida albicans can easily be treated, but yeast infections caused by other fungi may be more difficult to treat.

How to prevent Candida yeast infections

It is reported that nearly 75 percent of women will experience a Candida yeast infection in their life, but you don’t have to be one of them. Below are effective tips in order to prevent Candida yeast infections.

  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Avoid tight-fitting pants
  • Avoid nylon pantyhose or synthetic leotards
  • Always change out of damp bathing suits or workout gear immediately
  • Don’t use douches or scented napkins
  • Wipe from front to back
  • Control diabetes
  • Speak with your doctor about preventative antifungal therapy after you use antibiotics
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Manage stress
  • Practice good hygiene – wash carefully and dry well
  • Be mindful of medications you take and speak with your doctor about their risk to weaken your immune system thus making you more prone to Candida yeast infections
  • Sleep well

How to boost your immune system

A weak immune system can make a person at higher risk to develop a fungal infection; therefore, it is important to boost your immune system, especially as you continue to age. Tips to boost your immune system include:

  • Get proper sleep and reduce stress
  • Don’t smoke
  • Minimize alcohol consumption
  • Eat plenty antioxidant-rich foods – fruits and vegetables
  • Consider probiotics
  • Consume garlic for its immune-boosting abilities
  • Exercise
  • Control blood pressure
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get an annual check-up with your doctor to determine your risk and catch any infections early-on

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.