Microscopic fungi are an under-appreciated cause of infection and death in patients worldwide. 1.5 million people die from fungal infections each year, comparable to the number of deaths from malaria, despite a lower incidence of disease. This is because mortality rates for fungal infections are much worse than other well-studied infectious diseases, including HIV and TB. This reflects a gap in our collective understanding of fungal diseases, in timely diagnosis, and in available treatments. But it also offers hope that, through research, we can solve this global health challenge.
Many pathogenic fungi are opportunistic and acquired from the environment. Growth in the human host can induce changes in morphology. Specific adaptation to host stresses allow the fungus to proliferate and cause disease.
In our research, we ask how do fungal pathogens integrate information about their environments to undergo these dramatic changes? We focus on human fungal pathogens, with the long term goal of improving disease treatment and patient outcome. We seek to address this central question using the tools of genetics, genomics, chemistry, cytometry, and molecular biology. Work in the lab investigates this using two model systems: Cryptococcus and Rhizopus.