IntroductionCandida is a genus of opportunistic fungi that can causeinfection in humans. These fungi are plentiful in nature and are commonly foundin soil, on plants, and on other fomites.  It reproduces asexually through budding but itis highly variable and adaptable due to its dimorphic nature, allowing it to bein the form of yeast or mold. There are over 150 species of Candida but only 20are considered pathogens in mammals (Candidiasis). Candida yeasts are found onthe skin, mucous membranes, and reside in the intestinal tract.

            The fungal infection of Candidaspecies in humans and animals is known as Candidiasis. The most common speciesof Candida that causes infection is Candida albicans.This species is also commonly found in the gut flora of around half of healthyadults. The presence of the yeast is not enough to cause issue due to theprotective barriers of mammals including skin and mucous membranes, butovergrowth can break down these barriers and enter into the bloodstream (Candidiasis).Overgrowth occurs because Candida is dimorphic and has the ability to switchbetween yeast and hyphal growth forms (Hawley, H. Bradford, MD.).  These different growth forms have special functionsthat allow for better adhesion, invasion, damage, dissemination, immune evasionand host response (Jacobsen, I D, et al.

). This is the cause for much of the fungi’svirulence and adaptation against treatment.             Common infections caused by Candidaare oral candidiasis and vaginal candidiasis.

The iGEM team’s project isfocused on vaginal candidiasis, also known as yeast infections. The symptoms ofvaginal candidiasis include abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itch orsoreness, pain or discomfort during intercourse or urination (VaginalCandidiasis). Yeast infections are the overgrowth of Candida in the mucosalmembranes of the vagina caused by favorable changes in the environment for theyeast. The risk for Candidiasis is greater when the immune system iscompromised or when microbial populations in the body change (Candidiasis).

            The current options for detection ofCandida in the case of a possible fungal infection include vaginal dischargesamples that are placed under a microscope for identification of the fungiamongst the natural flora and lab testing to check for fungal cultures. Diagnosisis difficult because Candida can be naturally occurring in the body. Therefore,laboratory testing that is positive for a fungal culture does not conclusively determinethat Candida is the cause (Vaginal Candidiasis). The treatment for candidiasisincludes oral and topical anti-fungal medication. The topical anti-fungalmedication is used for temporary overgrowth but if the infection is persistent,long-term oral treatments such as six-month rounds of Fluconazole are used.  Experimental Design            The experimental design is still inthe process of being determined.

Our current plan is to grow Candida species inthe lab and determine what antigens would be good targets for identification.The goal is to create a simple at-home test similar to a pregnancy test wherethe presence of the Candida species will be indicated through some type ofcolor change in order for the user to determine the presence of a fungalinfection and gain access to proper care. Significance            Overall, Candida infections areimpactful to everyone based on the multiple routes of infection to include theskin, oral cavity, bloodstream, gastrointestinal tract, and vaginal cavity. Itis the most common fungal infection in humans and it can be difficult to treatdue to its recurring nature.             The military impact of fungalinfections caused by Candida is significant, especially during training ordeployments. The main reason for this is inadequate access to restrooms andproper hygiene. Receiving the proper treatment for this infection can bedifficult due to decreased access to medical care, time-consuming labs, andlong term anti-fungal medications. 

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