Fungal pathogens cause millions of human infections every year, ranging from skin and nail infections to invasive diseases that kill more than 1.5 million people per year. Antifungal treatment options are very limited, and antimicrobial drug resistance (AMR) is a problem, including the recent emergence of the fungal superbug Candida auris.

Our research is focused on Candida albicans, a yeast that is usually a benign coloniser of humans, but which is also a common human fungal pathogen that causes mucosal and also systemic infections with very poor outcomes. Innate immune phagocytes defend against Candida, but Candida mounts a counter-attack through sophisticated pathways that involve a developmental switch and metabolic competition.

We want to understand who wins in this interaction (Candida or immune cells?), when and why, with the view to finding ways to manipulate the system to help the host at the expense of the pathogen. To answer these questions, we are combining fungal genetics and cell biology, live cell imaging of infected immune cells, "omics" approaches and animal models of infection.

Associate Professor Ana Travern

A/Prof Ana Travern.
A/Prof Ana Travern.

A/Prof Travern is an Associate Professor and lab head in the Infection and Immunity theme of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University. She obtained her PhD from the University of Zagreb in Croatia, and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at the St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

In earlier work, Ana used the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to study transcription and posttranscriptional gene expression. More recently, she moved research fields to tackle the problem of human fungal infections. She started her independent lab at Monash in 2009, where she established molecular approaches to study the major human fungal pathogen Candida albicans. Work from the lab has been instrumental in understanding the roles of metabolism and mitochondrial functions in fungal virulence and interactions with innate immune cells, with papers in journals such as Cell Metabolism, Cell Reports, PNAS, PLoS Genetics and mBio.

The lab has also collaborated with chemists and material engineers to characterise novel antifungal compounds and biomaterials that could prevent colonisation of devices by microbial biofilms, a major unmet clinical need.

Seminar host: Professor Matt Sweet (m.sweet@imb.uq.edu.au)

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