Modeling of intravenous caspofungin administration using an intestine-on-chip reveals altered Candida albicans microcolonies and pathogenicity.

Kaden T*, Alonso-Roman R*, Akbarimoghaddam P*, Mosig AS, Graf K, Raasch M, Hoffmann B, Figge MT#, Hube B#, Gresnigt MS#


Candida albicans is a commensal yeast of the human intestinal microbiota that, under predisposing conditions, can become pathogenic and cause life-threatening systemic infections (candidiasis). Fungal-host interactions during candidiasis are commonly studied using conventional 2D in vitro models, which have provided critical insights into the pathogenicity. However, microphysiological models with a higher biological complexity may be more suitable to mimic in vivo-like infection processes and antifungal drug efficacy. Therefore, a 3D intestine-on-chip model was used to investigate fungal-host interactions during the onset of invasive candidiasis and evaluate antifungal treatment under clinically relevant conditions. By combining microbiological and image-based analyses we quantified infection processes such as invasiveness and fungal translocation across the epithelial barrier. Additionally, we obtained novel insights into fungal microcolony morphology and association with the tissue. Our results demonstrate that C. albicans microcolonies induce injury to the epithelial tissue by disrupting apical cell-cell contacts and causing inflammation. Caspofungin treatment effectively reduced the fungal biomass and induced substantial alterations in microcolony morphology during infection with a wild-type strain. However, caspofungin showed limited effects after infection with an echinocandin-resistant clinical isolate. Collectively, this organ-on-chip model can be leveraged for in-depth characterization of pathogen-host interactions and alterations due to antimicrobial treatment.

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