Emory University researchers in dermatology and endocrinology have identified a new defense factor that appears to collapse under severe metabolic imbalance, leaving the body susceptible to at least one dreaded fungal infection. This defense factor is separate from the antibody and cell-mediated immune system.
The study, reported in a recent issue of Diabetes, provides a key why to people with long-standing and poorly controlled diabetes sometimes develop a fungus that invades the soft tissue around the head and neck, reaching the blood vessels and brain and often causing death within days.
The organism that causes the infection is a bread mold, so common in the environment that most people inhale or swallow it daily without harm. The infection that it can cause takes hold only when a break occurs in the body's normal defenses.
This research reinforces the critical need to prevent acidosis and use treatment to bring metabolism back into balance as rapidly as possible. The investigators believe this new evidence of a serum protein involved in host defense at the molecular level opens another door in understanding susceptibility to infection. Understanding these mechanisms may in turn lead to new ways of treating patients with diabetes and other disorders that may predispose them to infection.