some bacteria can kill harmful fungi by injecting toxic proteins

Inter-microbial warfare may help overcome fungal infection

A new £2.7 million research programme will investigate whether a ‘nanoweapon’ could be deployed in the global battle against deadly fungal infections.

A recent discovery has shown that some bacteria can inject toxic proteins that kill harmful fungi through a molecular syringe called a Type Six Secretion System. 

A collaborative project led by the University of Dundee will work with colleagues at the University of Exeter and universities of Newcastle and Heriot-Watt, and the Hans Knöll Institute in Germany has been funded by Wellcome to understand the role and possible exploitation of this form of inter-microbial warfare. .

This cross-institution collaboration hope to discover exactly how this inter-microbial warfare works so that they can harness the machinery to develop better ways to tackle infections caused by bacteria and fungi.

Professor Neil Gow, of the University of Exeter, is a co-investigator on the award. He said: “Infectious diseases caused by fungi represent a major but relatively under-researched threat to global health ”.

We will now investigate how this new form of microbial warfare works and assess whether we can take advantage of this discovery for example, in developing new drugs that are effective against fungi – including strains that are antifungal drug resistant.”

Dr Sarah Coulthurst, from the University of Dundee, who is leading the programme, said: “We believe that this ability of bacteria to attack fungal cells, including those that cause disease, is important in many microbial communities, including those associated with health and disease. In this collaborative project, we will combine our expertise in bacterial and fungal biology with cutting-edge molecular techniques, to investigate the role played by anti-fungal Type VI secretion systems and to understand the molecular details how these systems kill fungal cells.

“We hope that understanding how bacteria can kill fungi might allow us to develop better ways to tackle antimicrobial-resistant infections caused by both bacteria and fungi.”

Date: 17 September 2019

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