Complement and fungal pathogens: an update


Speth C, Rambach G, Würzner R, Lass-Flörl C

Date: 6 March 2009


Fungal infections are a serious complication in immunocompromised patients such as human immunodeficiency virus-infected individuals, patients with organ transplantations or with haematological neoplasia. The lethality of opportunistic fungal infection is high despite a growing arsenal of antimycotic drugs, implying the urgent need for supportive immunological therapies to strengthen the current inefficient antimicrobial defences of the immunocompromised host. Therefore, increasing effort has been directed to investigating the interplay between fungi and the host immunity and thus to find starting points for additional therapeutic approaches. In this article, we review the actual state of the art concerning the role of complement in the pathogenesis of fungal infections. Important aspects include the activation of the complement system by the fungal pathogen, the efficiency of the complement-associated antimicrobial functions and the arsenal of immune evasion strategies applied by the fungi. The twin functions of complement as an interactive player of the innate immunity and at the same time as a modulator of the adaptive immunity make this defence weapon a particularly interesting therapeutic candidate to mobilise a more effective immune response and to strengthen in one fell swoop a broad spectrum of different immune reactions. However, we also mention the ‘Yin-Yang’ nature of the complement system in fungal infections, as growing evidence assigns to complement a contributory part in the pathogenesis of fungus-induced allergic manifestations.

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