U.S. and Canadian scientists say they've found the highly dangerous fungi Cryptococcus loves sugar and will consume it anywhere -- even in the human brain.
Duke University researchers said they found a sugar called inositol helps the fungi reproduce.
"Inositol is abundant in the human brain and in the fluid that bathes it (cerebral spinal fluid), which may be why this fungus has a predilection to infect the brain and cause meningitis," said Dr. Joseph Heitman, chairman of the Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology. "It has the machinery to efficiently move sugar molecules inside of its cells and thrive."
The lead author of the study, Chaoyang Xue, now an assistant professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said the "pathogenic yeast has more inositol transporters than all other fungi we have compared it to in the fungal kingdom, based on what we know from genome research."
"A connection between the high concentration of free inositol and fungal infection in the human brain is suggested by our studies," Xue said. "Establishing such a connection could open up a new way to control this deadly fungus."
The research that included scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of South Florida is to be reported in the inaugural issue of the online journal mBio, which will be launched in May by the American Society of Microbiology.
April 7, 2010