Cryptococcus, like many fungi, produces spores that are found in the air that we breathe. These spores will be inhaled into our lungs but they do not cause any harm because of our immune defences. However, they can cause life-threatening infections in individuals that have a weakened immune system, for example those that have AIDS or have had an organ transplant.
So, we're interested in immune cells called macrophages which are needed for immune defence against Cryptococcus.
It is impossible to see how immune cells destroy this fungus during infection because we do not have see-through bodies. So, in order to study this we are using zebrafish. Zebrafish have a similar immune system like our own but are transparent which makes it possible to see how infections happen. Using zebrafish we are testing new ways to enhance immune defences against Cryptococcus.
Ultimately these investigations may lead to development of novel therapies towards Cryptococcal infections.
Alfred Kamuyango works in Professor Simon Johnston's lab at the University of Sheffield.