Fungal infections are becoming more prevalent especially with increase in immunodeficiency disorders, immunosuppression following transplantation, cancers and cancer treatment. They are ubiquitous and cause infections which may be trivial or more deep seated and severe infections associated with mortality. The ability of some fungal species to cause disease is due to various virulence factors which help with fungal survival and persistence in the host resulting in tissue damage and disease. This review discusses these virulence factors. These factors include an ability to adhere to hosts’ tissues, production of enzymes that cause tissue damage and direct interference with host defences. Pathogenic fungi produce catalases and Mannitol which protect against reactive oxygen species (ROS). Some fungi notably, dimorphic fungi and C. albicans have the ability to switch from one form to another. Thermotolerance, at least to 370C, is critical for survival in mammalian host and contributes to dissemination. Melanin is produced by a number of pathogenic fungi, and protects against harsh conditions such as UV radiation, increased temperature and ROS. The ability to obtain Iron (Fe) from the storage or transport forms in the host is also a virulence factor and calcineurin acts as a sensor for pathogenic fungi.
Keywords: Fungi, virulence, pathogenic, infections, dimorphism, thermotolerance
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