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WEDNESDAY, June 11, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Disrupting a single enzyme cripples a common fungus that's responsible for a large number of hospital infections and prevents the fungus from becoming potentially deadly.
That's the finding of a Duke University Medical Center study in the June issue of Eukaryotic Cell.
The finding provides a new target for the development of drugs to fight the infection, called candidiasis.
The Duke scientists studied the molecular structure of the fungus Candida albicans. It's responsible for more than 10 percent of hospital-acquired infections and is fatal for as many as 40 percent of the people who contract the invasive form of the illness.
The fungus occurs naturally in the body and is usually kept under control by benign bacteria and the body's immune system. But when that natural balance is disrupted, the fungus can grow out of control and become a health threat.
In tests with mice, the researchers found an enzyme called calcineurin is critical in the virulence of C. albicans.
They infected mice with either normal C. albicans or a mutant strain that lacked the enzyme calcineurin. Mice infected with the normal fungus died by the eighth day after they were infected. However, 27 or the 30 mice infected with the mutant strain survived until 30 days later.
Here's where you can learn more about infection control.