Candida Albicans: Possible Breakthrough Treatment Discovered

by Natural Blaze

Around 80% of people have a common fungal pathogen living in their body without even being aware of it. Now a microbiologist from the Kansas State University has discovered a herbal medicine can be used as a breakthrough treatment.

Assistant professor of biology at Kansas State University, Mr Govindsamy Vediyappan, noted that developing nations regularly used Gymnema Slyvestre (a medical herb) to control sugar levels in diabetics. When he studied the microbiological possibilities of this herb, he discovered it could be used to treat a very common fungal pathogen found in humans called Candida albicans.

Candida albicans lives in both intestinal and oral areas as a normal flora would. The problems begin when the fungus overgrows, as this can be the start of genital, intestinal and oral infections. Shockingly, nearly 30% of people will die from this fungus once they have it. This is particularly a concern for people with reduced immune systems like those suffering from HIV and cancer, and people who have had organ transplants.

There are two different forms of the fungus. The first is a very treatable yeast infection. The second is a hyphal form which is very hard to treat. When the fungus moves from a yeast infection to the hyphal stage of growth, the difficulty with treatment is due to filament-like combinations of cells which can more easily spread into the different organs of the body.

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Vediyappan stated “Once it gets into the tissue, it spreads like roots and is difficult to contain by our immune system.”

The main point of the studies conducted by the research team was to test if the Gymnema Slyvestre herb could be used to block the hyphal growth stage of Candida albicans.

Gymnema Slyvestre is found in Australia, China and India and is a plant which grows as a tropical vine. The leaves of the vine, which contain gymnemic acids, are already widely accepted as a traditional medicinal plant. As a cost effective treatment, the extract is regularly used to treat many ailments, including diabetes. It can be taken as a drink form to aid in weight loss and to help in the control of sugar levels in the body.

The research team, led by Vediyappan, purified compounds of gymnemic acid and discovered that these compounds could prevent the stage where the yeast transitioned into the hyphal stage. This stopped the spread of the fungus and kept it in a form that is more easily managed.

This was a successful investigation for two reasons.

  1. The team found the compounds in the gymnemic acid were nontoxic. This is particularly important for human health as cancer patients and those with compromised immune systems are likely to benefit from treatments which do not harm their cells.
  2. The researchers also discovered that the gymnemic acid was capable of blocking the virulence properties contained in the fungus. Being able to block the transition from fungus to hyphal growth makes the fungus more easily treated. Potential new drugs could be developed using the findings of Vediyappan and his team of researchers. “We have shown that this compound is safe to use because it doesn’t hurt our body cells, yet it blocks the virulence of this fungus under in vitro conditions.”

During the research period it was discovered that the compounds were quick to work on the fungal infection, making the discoveries very important. It has been found that within thirty minutes of an infection forming, the treatable fungal yeast infection can turn into the hyphal growth phase. One this change has occurred, branched filaments will form and the spread to other organs of the body can commence.

Candida albicans in a fungal form makes a biofilm which is difficult to clear up. The studies by these researchers found that the compounds in the gymnemic acid actually converted this biofilm back to a treatable yeast form and Vediyappan points out the importance of this. “This compound prevents the biofilm formation because hyphae are the major builders of biofilms and biofilms are resistant to antifungals,” Vediyappan said. “Yeast cells by themselves cannot make biofilms and are sensitive to antifungal treatments.”

The original research can be found in the PLOS ONE journal. The article is titled “Gymnemic acids inhibit hyphal growth and virulence in Candida albicans.”

Govindsamy Vediyappan intends to further research potentials for the development of new drugs, further application in the treatment of diabetes and several other treatments for Candida albicans. Other fungal pathogens such as Aspergillus were found to have their growth stopped by gymnemic acid during this initial research and there is the potential to discover improvements for the treatment of leukemia patients and also heart transplant recipients.

Though this research team was not the first to realize the benefits of gymnemic acid compounds, they were definitely the first to discover the important ability to block the fungal transition properties of Candida albicans.

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