Congratulation to Vishu Kumar Aimanianda, Thierry Fontaine (Department of Mycology) and Kawthar Bouchemal (U. Paris Saclay) whose project “FUNPOLYVAC” will be financed by the Agence National de la Recherche in its 2021 Projet de Recherche Collaborative call.
Exploring fungal cell-wall polysaccharides for immunotherapies
Our perception about fungi is often limited to edible mushrooms, although hundreds of microscopic fungal species cause fatal Invasive Fungal Infections (IFIs). Annually, IFIs kill more than 1.6 million people globally, a number equal to or greater than the mortality due to tuberculosis and malaria. In spite of the available antifungal drugs, the mortality associated with IFIs remains high due to host-related factors as well as inadequate efficacy of the drugs, variable drug-susceptibility across fungal species due to their complex biological cycle and emergence of drug-resistant strains. Therefore, there is an urgent necessity for alternates to combat fungal pathogens. While interaction between host immune system and fungus starts with the fungal cell-wall contacting immune cell. Fungal cell-wall is composed of different polysaccharides; however, immunotherapeutic applications of the cell-wall polysaccharides have been underexplored. The reasons being, although cell-wall polysaccharides elicit an immune response they are poor immunogens, most of them are insoluble, and their tendency to aggregate forming particles lowers their immunostimulatory potential. Our FUNPOLYVAC project aims at overcoming these drawbacks and exploring how the cell-wall polysaccharides could be useful in immunotherapies against fungal pathogens. We will take the advantage of our expertise on Aspergillus fumigatus, a major airborne opportunistic pathogen, for the proof of concept, keeping in mind that the approach could be extended to other pathogenic fungi.