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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2019 Feb 4. pii: AAC.02152-18. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02152-18. [Epub ahead of print]

Iron Chelator Deferasirox Reduces Candida albicans Invasion of Oral Epithelial Cells and Infection Levels in Murine Oropharyngeal Candidiasis.

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Oral Microbiome Research Laboratory, Kornberg School of Dentistry, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, 19147, United States of America.
Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, 14214, United States of America.
Department of Oral Biology, School of Dental Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, 14214, United States of America.


Candida albicans, the causative agent of mucosal infections including oropharyngeal candidiasis (OPC) as well as bloodstream infections is becoming increasingly resistant to existing treatment options. In the absence of novel drug candidates, drug repurposing aimed at using existing drugs to treat off label diseases is a promising strategy. C. albicans requires environmental iron for survival and virulence while host nutritional immunity deploys iron-binding proteins to sequester iron and reduce fungal growth. Here we evaluated the role of iron-limitation using deferasirox (an FDA approved iron chelator for treatment of patients with iron overload) during murine OPC; and assessed deferasirox-treated C. albicans for its interaction with human oral epithelial (OE), neutrophils, and antimicrobial peptides. Therapeutic deferasirox treatment significantly reduced salivary iron levels while a non-significant reduction in fungal burden was observed. Preventive treatment that allowed for two additional days of drug administration in our murine model, resulted in significant reduction of C. albicans colony forming units (CFU)/g of tongue tissue, a significant reduction in salivary iron levels, and significantly reduced neutrophil-mediated inflammation. C. albicans harvested from tongues of animals undergoing preventive treatment had differential expression of 106 genes, including those involved in iron metabolism, adhesion, and response to host innate immunity. Moreover, deferasirox-treated C. albicans cells had two-fold reduction in survival in neutrophil phagosomes (with greater susceptibility to oxidative stress); and reduced adhesion and invasion of OE cells, in vitro Thus deferasirox treatment has the potential to alleviate OPC by affecting C. albicans gene expression and reducing virulence.


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