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A Yeast-Based Tool Developed by Researchers for Pathogen Detection

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All around the world, the fungal pathogens are becoming a crucial public health burden. It is estimated to cause almost 2 Million deaths annually and is also responsible for the devastating damages to plant crops and decline in the population of animal wildlife. However, fungal pathogens and the illnesses they cause are overlooked and study to fight them is underfunded.

A research team from the Columbia University has designed a tool that will probably transform the way pathogens are detected and treated in everything from water to agriculture to human health. The study was initiated as a search to develop an easy, cost-effective approach to sense cholera, but rapidly advanced to confront other requirements. The team has designed the foremost single-constituent yeast-based biosensor for the recognition of pathogens.

According to the team, the devastation is most prominent in resource-poor regions where efforts to decrease infections have been hindered by the shortage of cost-effective fungal diagnostics. While observation of worldwide pathogen burden has been generally restricted to a small digit of specialized hubs, the Principle Investigator described, more efficient surveillance can be established by making inexpensive diagnostics available at the point-of-care. Conventional diagnostics mostly depend on costly reagents, specialized equipment, technical personnel, and cold-chain distribution, all of which are generally inaccessible on-site.

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To deal with this issue, the team switched the naturally existing cell surface receptors of baker’s yeast, that is, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with pathogen-specific receptor proteins. They initiated by developing a biosensor for the identification of the human fungal pathogen,Candida albicans, which is a kind of yeast that exists naturally in the gut of humans;however,it can develop severe medical issue and even death if their populace gets out of control.

After swapping the natural receptor of baker’s yeast with that of C. albicans, the team then modified its DNA to facilitate lycopene (pigment accountable for the tomatoes’ red color) production. This enabled the engineered yeast to change red in the existence of a target substance, in this study, C. albicans fungus pheromones.The trial was a revolutionary success. When exposed to the fungal target, the sensor changed to red. The team had designed an easy, functional, one-component, highly specific sensor with the use of yeast only.

Further, the team successfully validated their assay for the potential to verify10 additional major pathogens, including Botrytis cinerea and Paracoccidioidesbrasiliensis. With a working assay in-hand, the researchers set forth to make it user-friendly and versatile, developing a one-step quick dipstick prototype, similar to an at-home pregnancy test, that can be utilized in complex samples, such as whole serum, blood, urine, water, and soil.

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