13 June 2019

Many women suffer from recurrent vaginal yeast infections. It is unclear why some women are more sensitive to this than others. Researchers at Radboud university medical center discovered that mutations in the SIGLEC15 gene play an important role in this. These mutations disrupt the immune response, wrote the researchers in Science Translational Medicine, published on 12 June.

Publication: Martin Jaeger et all. A systems genomics approach identifies SIGLEC15 as a susceptibility factor in recurrent vulvovaginal candidiasis. Science Translational Medicine.

Almost all women will suffer from a vaginal yeast infection at one time in their life. It is rarely dangerous, but it can be stressful because of the itching and pain. The culprit is the fungus Candida albicans, which occurs naturally in warm damp places in the body, along with numerous other bacteria and fungi. Normally, the Candida fungus is quite harmless, but if the natural balance between the microorganisms is disturbed, it can start to grow rampant, resulting in infections.
 
In three to eight percent of women, these infections recur regularly, on average three times a year. These infections are perfectly treatable, time after time, but there is no definitive solution to this recurring problem. The question as to why some women are sensitive to these infections remains unanswered. Diabetes may play a role in this, just as long-term use of antibiotics or contraceptive pills, but none of these risk factors apply to the majority of women with recurrent infections. The properties of the fungus itself do not provide a conclusive explanation either.
 
Unknown gene
It may be possible that some women have a genetic predisposition to getting yeast infections. This has been researched before, but only on the basis of a few predefined genes that play a role in the immune response to Candida. This yielded only very few unambiguous results, which is why Martin Jaeger and his colleagues at Radboud university medical center compared the complete genetic profile of 155 women with and 172 women without susceptibility to Candida infections. They discovered that the SIGLEC15 gene plays an important role. “This gene isn't very well known,” explains Jaeger, “so relatively little research has been done. “
 
Surplus
The SIGLEC15 gene is active in various immune cells. It produces so-called lectin proteins that can bind to sugar molecules, including sialic acid that is located on the outside of fungal cells. As soon as lectin adheres to the fungus, the immune system can recognise and clean up the fungus. Jaeger: “Due to a defect in the SIGLEC15 gene, the immune cells do not recognise the fungus, and it can continue to grow. This causes more immune cells, but because they still do not recognise the fungus, it keeps coming back. This cycle keeps coming back, which means that the symptoms are not caused by a lack of immune cells, but rather a surplus of them.”
 
Recognition
The discovery of the SIGLEC15 gene provides more information about the cause of yeast infections, but does not offer a complete explanation, says Jaeger: "There are probably multiple genes involved in recurrent vaginal yeast infections. Not everyone with this SIGLEC15 gene mutation automatically gets infections. Many factors play a role, but we have now found an important factor that plays a role in recognising the Candida fungus.
 
For the treatment of vaginal yeast infections, it remains important to inhibit the immune system's overreaction, but Jaeger thinks it is difficult to cure the ailment definitively. “Because there is a genetic component to it, which - unfortunately - is difficult to eliminate.”
 

Related news items


Extended deadlines grant proposals

31 March 2020

The deadlines to submit grant proposals has been extended by most funding agencies.

read more

HFSP Grant for Johannes Textor

30 March 2020

Johannes Textor, theme Cancer development and immune defense, has been awarded a program grant of 1 million US dollars by The Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to investigate how T cells navigate extremely dense environments using experiments, modeling and methods from pedestrian dynamics.

read more

Ritalin enhances your ability to do tasks by making you more motivated

26 March 2020

A new study uncovers how stimulants like Ritalin work in the brain, and it challenges some misconceptions for its recreative use. The collaboration between Radboudumc and Brown University (USA) was published in the journal Science.

read more

Dealing with COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries

26 March 2020

RIHS researcher Joost Hopman believes that low-and middle-income countries should intensify their preparedness for a possible COVID-19 outbreak. This was the core message of an opinion article that he wrote at the request of the medical journal JAMA.

read more

Physiotherapy is important to the recovery of patients with the coronavirus

26 March 2020

Patients who have been infected with the coronavirus and admitted to the hospital for this reason should receive physiotherapy as soon as their condition allows. This is the view expressed by physiotherapists and researchers from the Radboudumc in a set of joint treatment recommendations.

read more

Healthcare utilization and regional variation of end-of-life hospital care in Dutch cancer patients

26 March 2020

In International Journal of Quality Health Care RIHS researcher Femke Atsma showed high healthcare utilization and medical variation in End of Life care in Cancer patients, which was not associated with GP care or long term care.

read more