Syracuse University

Severe fungal infections are contracted by an estimated 25,000 Americans each year. Despite the use of anti-fungal drugs, they may lead to around 10,000 deaths. This piece of news seems to bring some hope. New compounds that help control fungal infection seem to have been developed by two Syracuse University scientists. They claim to have created brominated furanones that apparently show powerful anti-fungal properties.

Candida albicans is considered to be the most virulent fungus and is carried by nearly 75 percent of people. Though the fungus is believed to be harmless typically, it may lead to candidiasi in individuals with HIV or otherwise compromised immune systems. The condition may result in a high mortality rate. Besides, the fungi also seem to have the ability of forming biofilms that attach to surfaces and may be approximately 1,000 times more resistant to anti-fungals.

“These new furanones have the potential to control such infections and save lives,” explains assistant professor Dacheng Ren of the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering in SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. “In our tests, they reduced fungal growth by more than 80 percent, and we hope to improve on that going forward.”

Researchers reveal that over the past 20 years, pathogenic fungi seem to have become increasingly resistant to anti-fungal drugs. This seems to have led to a powerful demand for drugs that are more effective. The experts genomic analysis further proposes that furanones have different genetic targets as compared to current anti-fungal agents. Thus, it could prevent drug resistance gained in the past.

In addition to this, the team has earlier also shown these furanones to inhibit bacterial biofilm formation. Interestingly this could essay their role in helping in the control of chronic infections where biofilms often appear, on surgical, dental and other implants.

Currently furanones research at Syracuse University will examine a broad spectrum of other potential capabilities of the compound. It could range from varied medical uses like controlling bacterial and fungal biofilms, to anti-fungal wood preservatives.

In collaboration with chemistry professor Yan-Yeung Luk of SU’s College of Arts and Sciences, Ren has filed a non-provisional patent application for the compound. The research results have also published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.