Megan Lenardon, Andrew Porter, Donna MacCallum & Soumya Palliyil

Candida albicans cell fluorescently stained with ConA-Texas Red on the cell surface and a GFP-tagged protein on the insideOpportunistic fungal pathogens cause over two million life-threatening infections per year in immuno-compromised patients and more than half the people who suffer from these serious infections die. At present, there are inadequate antifungal drugs available to treat these infections. It is difficult to develop drugs that target fungi without also harming ourselves as human cells are similar to fungal cells. There are also few quick and accurate diagnostics for serious fungal infections. This prevents clinicians from making informed decisions to treat patients in the early stages of infection when, even with their limitations, current antifungal drugs would be most effective. There is, therefore, an urgent clinical need to develop new antifungal therapies and diagnostics.

New treatments for conditions such as cancer include antibody-based drugs. Antibodies offer distinct advantages over conventional drugs because they recognise their target with very high specificity. This means that diseased cells can be targeted for killing without affecting surrounding healthy cells. The lessons learned from the development of antibody-based cancer drugs can be applied to antifungal treatments to provide a much needed alternative to the current inadequate range of chemical-based antifungal drugs, and the same new antifungal antibodies could also be used in the development of better diagnostic tests for serious fungal infections.

The objective of this work is to demonstrate the combined therapeutic and diagnostic utility of two antibodies that recognise a target on the surface of fungal cells. Laboratory tests will be performed to evaluate whether the antibodies kill or inhibit the growth of fungal pathogens. In addition, the antibodies will be tested in models of serious fungal infection and for their ability to detect their target in infected blood and urine samples.