Opportunistic yeast pathogens: reservoirs, virulence mechanisms, and therapeutic strategies

Elizabeth J Polvi, Xinliu Li, Teresa R O'Meara, Michelle D Leach, Leah E Cowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Life-threatening invasive fungal infections are becoming increasingly common, at least in part due to the prevalence of medical interventions resulting in immunosuppression. Opportunistic fungal pathogens of humans exploit hosts that are immunocompromised, whether by immunosuppression or genetic predisposition, with infections originating from either commensal or environmental sources. Fungal pathogens are armed with an arsenal of traits that promote pathogenesis, including the ability to survive host physiological conditions and to switch between different morphological states. Despite the profound impact of fungal pathogens on human health worldwide, diagnostic strategies remain crude and treatment options are limited, with resistance to antifungal drugs on the rise. This review will focus on the global burden of fungal infections, the reservoirs of these pathogens, the traits of opportunistic yeast that lead to pathogenesis, host genetic susceptibilities, and the challenges that must be overcome to combat antifungal drug resistance and improve clinical outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2261-2287
Number of pages27
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number12
Early online date21 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 11/02/2015

We thank the J. Andrew Alspaugh and Chad Rappleye labs for images and Cowen lab members for helpful discussions. EJP is supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Frederick Banting and Charles Best CGS Doctoral Award, XL by a University of Toronto Fellowship, MDL by a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship (Wellcome Trust 096072), and LEC by a Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award, Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant #355965, and by Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grants MOP-86452 and MOP-119520.


  • opportunistic
  • fungi
  • yeast
  • pathogen
  • candida
  • cryptococcus
  • histoplasma
  • pneumocystis


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