European funding to study how yeasts such as Candida cause infections among hospital patients

Researchers from the University of Kent and the University of Lille have been awarded European funding to study how yeasts such as Candida cause infections among hospital patients.

Dr Fritz Mühlschlegel, Reader in Medical Microbiology in the Biosciences Department at Kent and Consultant Medical Microbiologist in the East Kent NHS Trust, and Dr Daniel Poullain from Lille’s Medical School have been awarded 315,106 euros under the EU’s Interreg Programme to study the mechanisms by which fungal pathogens cause disease.

According to Dr Mühlschlegel, ‘Hospital acquired infections caused by yeasts such as Candida, pose considerable health and economic problems on both sides of the Channel. Fungal disease can affect patients over a large range of clinical disciplines: medical and surgical and paediatric intensive-care patients as well as cancer patients and transplant recipients’.

Dr Poullain added ‘The Nord Pas de Calais region as well as Kent pay a high price due to the steady rise of hospital acquired fungal infections. The management of these infections to an acceptable level has not been achieved. The main reason for this is that the way in which these organisms cause disease are not fully understood.’

The aim of the project will be to study the structure at the interface between the fungus and the patient known as the yeast cell wall. The objective is to understand how Candida makes specific sugars, which are used by the yeast to stick to human cells, and how Candida adapts to its new environment.

The project will link two internationally recognized research teams at the University of Kent and the University of Lille involved in research on Candida. Although on different sides of the Channel, the two laboratories are less than an hour’s journey apart and will ensure the generation of an intellectually and technologically robust consortium.

The outcome from the research programme will be a better understanding of how Candida causes disease and this information has important implications for both the scientific as well as medical communities on both sides of the Channel.

The University of Kent has been working in partnership with the three Lille Universities and the University of the Littoral to develop the Réseau Universitaire Transmanche. This innovative cross-channel project is the first Franco-British higher education institution of its kind and will be welcoming its first intake of students this coming September.

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