The role of host and fungal factors in the commensal-to-pathogen transition of Candida albicans.
Purpose of Review
The fungus Candida albicans has evolved to live in close association with warm-blooded hosts and is found frequently on mucosal surfaces of healthy humans. As an opportunistic pathogen, C. albicans can also cause mucosal and disseminated infections (candidiasis). This review describes the features that differentiate the fungus in the commensal versus pathogenic state and the main factors underlying C. albicans commensal-to-pathogen transition.
Adhesion, invasion, and tissue damage are critical steps in the infection process. Especially invasion and damage require transcriptional and morphological changes that differentiate C. albicans in the pathogenic from the commensal state. While the commensal-to-pathogen transition has some conserved causes and features in the oral cavity, the female urogenital tract, and the gut, site-specific differences have been identified in recent years.
This review highlights how specific factors in the different mucosal niches affect development of candidiasis. Recent evidence suggests that colonization of the gut is not only a risk factor for systemic candidiasis but might also provide beneficial effects to the host.