Can Candida Infection Cause Memory Problems?

The pathogenesis and management options for fungal infections have always been a challenge for researchers. The affect that fungal infections have on the various organs of the body can be quite significant. This stiff challenge inspired researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, to carry out studies to study the short term effect of fungal infections on the brain. After extensive research and carrying out various studies in mouse models, the researchers have come up with a report that has been published in nature Communications which is a popular journal.[1]

They have made a startling revelation that Candida Albicans, the fungus responsible for the most common fungal infection has the potential to cross the blood brain barrier and can cause an inflammatory response. This can lead to the development of granulomatous type lesions along with memory problems in mouse models. Also extremely intriguing was an observation made by researchers that the granulomatous lesions had features that were quite similar to those seen with Alzheimer Disease.[1]

This has prompted the need to investigate persistent candida infections and its long term implications on the brain in greater depth. Candida Albicans is a fungus that grows naturally in the stomach. It can also be seen in the mouth and around the vaginal region in females. In most cases, Candida Infection does not cause any problems; however, in severe cases it can lead to problems including oral thrush.[1]

Additionally, in some cases it can affect vital organs of the body including the brain as the latest study shows. This article highlights this aspect of Candida Infection and explains how it can cause memory problems in people.[1]

Can Candida Infection Cause Memory Problems?

As stated, extensive research has been carried out by various scientists about the effect of fungal infections on humans. Among the most extensively studied fungal infections, Candida Infection tops the list. A study carried out by physicians at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, showed that Candida Albicans fungus can breach the blood brain barrier and can enter the brain. This causes an inflammatory response resulting in the development of granulomatous lesions which may impair the memory.[2]

This has been proven to be the case at least in the mouse model used for research. What led to the scientists to carry out such an extensive research on fungal infections is explained by the leader of the team, Dr. Corry. He states that there has been increased number of cases, of late, of fungal infections resulting in airway diseases like asthma and even potentially life threatening conditions like sepsis. He further adds that these incidences and findings led him to carry out research on the possibility that fungal infections might even affect the brain. If that were to be the case, then what would be the impact of the infection on the overall health status of the patient.[2]

What further intrigued the researchers was that many respiratory conditions caused by fungal infections increased the risk for dementia that has been well documented in various studies. This pointed to a close association between brain damage and fungal infections. Dr. Corry and his team tried varying doses of candida Albicans in mouse models. They were aiming at a dose that would cause brain damage but not result in significant disability. After various attempts, when the team injected 25,000 candida albicans yeasts in the blood of the mouse model they were astonished to see that the fungal infection breached the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain.[2]

The function of the blood-brain barrier is to protect the brain from external pathogens that may try to penetrate into the brain through the blood. Candida Albicans injected in the mice crossed this barrier and started damaging the immune cells of the brain. Dr. Corry stated that on careful analysis it was observed that the fungus caused activation of the immune cell called microglia. They also produced molecules that triggered an inflammatory response in the brain.[2]

This inflammation led to the development of granulomatous lesions. They named the lesions as fungus induced glial granuloma. They also observed that as these granulomatous lesions formed amyloid precursor proteins and molecules of amyloid beta protein also developed. These proteins are closely linked to the plaques that are seen in the brain of people who have Alzheimer Disease.[2]

The next step in the study was to test the memory of the rodents. The researchers were surprised to see that the rodents that were infected with candida infection tended to have decreased spatial memory compared to those rodents that did not have the infection. This abnormality however cleared once the infection cleared. The findings of this latest study prove that Candida Infections can cause damage to the body that far beyond upper respiratory infections and sepsis.[2]

The findings have also led many scientists to believe that Candida or other fungal Infections may have a role to play in the development of various other neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis. The research is ongoing to explore this possibility.[2]

Dr. Corry further adds that a better understanding of the immune system is essential. This is necessary to explore how it deals with such threats and the changes that occur with time that makes an individual prone to fungal infections. This will significantly increase the possibility of finding new management approaches to deal with these conditions.[2]

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