As an ‘Early Stage Researcher’ within the FunHoMic consortium I will focus on vaginal yeast infections that are caused by C. albicans.
A healthy vagina is colonized by millions of lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria are, as their name suggests, well known for the production of lactic acid. The presence of lactic acid in the vagina leads to the acidification of the environment, which is unfavourable for the growth of most microbes. The acidity level of the vagina might however change, for instance by using soap. Or by a more complex cause such as a decreased production of lactic acid. This latter is often the result of a disrupted vaginal microbiota, caused for instance by antibiotics or hormonal changes. When the acidity level is altered, other microbes such as C. albicans, have the opportunity to colonize the vagina. This causes discomfort and could severely affect the quality of life.
Vaginal yeast infections are often treated with antifungal medication. Nonetheless, these treatments are unable to restore the original vaginal microbiota, allowing other microbes to colonize the vagina. The application of antifungal medication is associated with an increased risk on vaginal bacterial infections. More importantly, antifungal medication and antibiotics contribute to the rise of resistant microbes. Therefore, it is important to find alternative prevention methods and treatments for vaginal yeast infections.
Biose® is a company that develops pharmaceutical products based on living bacteria, also known as ‘Live Biotherapeutic Products’. These products contain one or more types of living bacteria (Live Biotherapeutic Microorganisms). Biose® has developed a product named Gynophilus® to prevent and treat vaginal infections. The key ingredient of Gynophilus® is the living lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lcr35®. This bacterium produces lactic acid and inhibits the growth of C. albicans effectively. Surprisingly, L. rhamnosus Lcr35®’s ability to kill the fungus is tremendously enhanced by the addition of a specific excipient to Gynophilus®. During my research I will investigate how this excipient is able to enhance the ability of lactic acid bacteria to kill C. albicans. Additionally, I will investigate how these new insights can be used for the improvement of Gynophilus®.