The Birds and the Bees...and Fungi

Fungal infection grows by mating with virtually anything

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The Candida albicans fungus, which is the leading cause of infection in people with suppressed immune systems, spreads so easily due to its "promiscuous" nature.

Brown University has uncovered the simple mating strategy of the Candida albicans fungus: anyone will do. The bacteria responds to pheromones of other species and if it cannot find a partner of the opposite sex, it will pair up with a same-sex mate.

Candida albicans is a yeast that causes infection in humans, mainly by "[clumping] together in tough-to-treat biofilms." A biofilm is essentially any cluster of bacterial or fungal cells that form and stick to a surface, like plaque on teeth.

Understanding the mating habits and adaptability of fungi like this may prove useful in developing a treatment to fight infection. Scientists speculate that the mating signals of Candida albicans may also be setting off a domino effect in other species.

"If [fungi] sense other species are trying to mate, perhaps they decide they should too," says Professor Richard Bennett.

The Candida albicans fungus forms on the skin and mucous membranes like the vagina, mouth and rectum. It can also reach the bloodstream, causing further complications. It is the most common type of infection in people with compromised immune systems.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 27, 2011