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Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Scientists seek to starve out drug-resistant infections through iron-restricting medication

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A team of researchers from the University at Buffalo and Temple University recently found that depriving a specific fungus’ access to iron can be the key to combatting it.

Candida albicans, like many fungi, relies on iron to survive. It is abundant in the mouth and relies heavily on saliva — wherein iron is the second most common metal — to keep growing and repairing. Therefore, researchers turned to the medication deferasirox, traditionally used to treat blood disorders. In mice testing, wherein it was added to drinking water to reduce the availability of iron, saliva-based iron levels plummeted by four times and consequently reduced the fungi’s ability to infect tissue, as well as its ability to survive.

“In the absence of novel drug candidates, drug repurposing aimed at using existing drugs to treat diseases is a promising strategy,” Mira Edgerton, co-lead investigator of the study and research professor in the Department of Oral Biology at the UB School of Dental Medicine, said.

In that regard, deferasirox indicates a promising start, given that there are only three major classes of clinical antifungal drugs and no new classes of antifungals have been introduced in decades. This, despite rising fungal drug resistance year after year.

Notably, Edgerton’s co-lead investigator, Sumant Puri, an assistant professor at the Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University, adds that use of deferasirox has not been shown to cause iron deficiency in adults with otherwise normal iron levels. All findings from their study were published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy back in March.