Yeast infections are poorly understood, difficult to diagnose and are becoming increasingly frequent and serios, affecting over 300 million people worldwide.
OPATHY (from Omics of PATHogenics Yeasts) is an innovative translational research training network that will explore the potential of next-generation high-throughput technologies, including genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics, to study the interactions of yeasts that cause disease to humans (e.g. Candida and Cryptococcus sp.) with their host, and to develop new diagnostic tools to monitor yeast infections in the clinic. Today, these infections are poorly understood, difficult to diagnose, and are becoming increasingly frequent and serious, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. Pressing problems are the emergence of resistance to anti-fungal drugs, the persistence in the host, and the lack of fast and efficient diagnostic tools to direct to the appropriate treatment. Recent developments in high-throughput genomics and proteomics techniques (omics) have revolutionized biomedical research but their potential for their use in the clinic remains poorly explored. OPATHY will exploit these technologies to investigate host-pathogen interactions during yeast infection and colonization with a primary focus on developing innovative diagnostics tools to improve health care. Proteomics, transcriptomics and genomics measurements of strains and infections will be integrated with state-of-the-art computational analyses to identify novel biomarkers that are able to determine the infection stage, the infective pathogen, and the potential resistance traits. This knowledge will drive the development of diagnostic tools based on the detection of specific DNA sequences (by PCR) or antibodies (by Elisa or proteomics).
These tools will be validated in a clinical study of key patient cohorts, and new diagnostic protocols will be assessed and disseminated to clinicians across Europe. The participation of two clinical centers and four companies is of paramount importance for the network to provide an integrative and transversal research and training environment for the Early Stage Researchers (ESRs), who will learn how to validate the approaches developed into clinical tools of the highest standards possible. Importantly, the methodologies and approaches of OPATHY can be easily extended to the study and identification of other human, animal and plant microbial pathogens, or the tracing of relevant industrial organisms. Therefore, the potential of our research extends beyond pathogenic yeasts and clinical applications. Grounded on solid individual research projects, OPATHY will train ESRs at network level in several scientific technologies and fields, as well as in transferable skills, which will kick start the careers of young, innovative and creative researchers.