Candida albicans – can it lead to IBD type symptoms?

In recent years, the role of microbial diversity and richness in the gut has prompted extensive research into the benefits of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. This has led to the rise of probiotic supplements, microbial treatments, and research now shows that bacterial communities are not the only actors in the gut generatin benefits.

In a new study from scientists at the University of Utah Health, fungi have been shown to also be key players in the balance of healthy gut functioning. The study, published in the journal Nature, describes how fungi thrive in a healthy gut, but they can also cause intestinal damage that may contribute to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

The role of fungal organisms in the gut has been relatively understudied, in part because they are vastly outnumbered by bacteria.

To explore the role of fungi in the gut, researchers conducted experiments to demonstrate how a healthy immune system maintains a healthy microbiome diversity, including fungi, but when the system is unbalanced, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, such as Crohn’s disease, is more likely to occur. This was first noted when it was recognised that a common medical test for diagnosing Crohn’s disease, a type of IBD, relies on detecting antibodies against fungi.

The researchers found that the yeast Candida albicans elicited the strongest immune response and was the trigger of the immune response to IBD. This species is one of the main species of fungi that reside in the human gut,

Following detection, the scientists found the antibodies produced by the immune response targeted hyphae, which are fungal cell types, that bind to proteins helping microbes adhere to surfaces, such as the gut wall, and become invasive. This is a situation that commonly occurs when the Candida albicans moves into an overgrowth situation, and the hyphae from the fungal organism root into the gut wall. In this study, this mycelial form of Candida caused intestinal damage that resembled IBD.

However, IBD is just one of many health conditions associated with fungi, which also include conditions such as vaginal yeast infections.

All in all, there are very good reasons for keeping fungal organisms in check in the gut. The use of probiotics and natural microbials helps keep the gut microbiome in a beneficial balance, and stops it slipping into a dysbiosis that can cause disease states.