Donna MacCallum & Megan Lenardon

The human gut is full of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa and even viruses. Human gut bacteria have been shown to influence human health and disease, yet much less is known about the fungi normally present in the human gut and how these affect human health, although fungi have recently been linked to development of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Bacteria present in the human gut are now easily identified using well established methods to extract DNA from faeces, amplify specific bacterial DNA sequences and identify different bacterial species by comparing these sequences to databases.  Studies to identify which fungi normally live in the human gut have been hampered by a lack of optimised methods to carry out similar DNA sequence identification.  There is also the problem that there are fewer fungal cells in the human gut compared to bacterial cells.

In this project we will develop and optimise molecular methods to allow us to specifically identify the fungal species present in the human gut.  This will enable future studies to assess how diet, disease, antibiotic therapy or other treatments affect which fungi are found in the human gut and how this might be exploited to prevent hospital-acquired infections.