Candida albicans, the most important human fungal pathogen, is a commensal species commonly colonizing human mucosal surfaces. However, under conditions of immune dysfunction or disruption in host microbial flora, C. albicans can become an opportunistic pathogen causing recurrent mucosal infections. More significantly, C. albicans is currently ranked the third most commonly isolated bloodstream pathogen in hospitalized patients, with a mortality rate of 40-50%. Immunocompromised individuals, such as those with cancer or HIV infection, are often the most susceptible. The increasing emergence of strains of C. albicans resistant to commonly used antifungal agents has made clinical management of candidiasis increasingly difficult and the need for improved drug therapies crucial. To that end, fungal research in the program is focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind the pathogenesis of C. albicans through its regulation of selectively expressed repertoire of virulence determinants.
The laboratory of Dr. Mary Ann Jabra-Rizk focuses on analyzing the various factors and conditions that play a role in the transition between colonization and infection, specifically those related to biofilm formation, drug resistance and host-pathogen interactions. In addition, Dr. Jabra-Rizk’s research utilizes animal models of infection to study fungal-bacterial interactions in vivo. Dr. Vincent Bruno's laboratory employs a combination of genomics, transcriptomics, molecular biology and genetics to identify and characterize genes and pathways that are important for various aspects of pathogenesis. Combined, the ultimate goal behind the research conducted in this program is to contribute to our understanding of the versatility in the pathogenic potential of this significant opportunistic pathogen. Such crucial information will have important clinical implications as it aids in the identification and the design of novel therapeutic strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of infections.