Looking after the fungi in your gut could be key to better health



F0FBJ3 Candida albicans is a diploid fungus that grows both as yeast and filamentous cells and a causal agent of opportunistic oral and

Candida albicans is a fungus that lives in your body and can affect how quickly you recover from illness

Alexey Kotelnikov/Alamy

WE ARE all a bit mouldy – literally. Our bodies are home to a great many fungi. They are scattered on our skin, inside our mouths and in our guts. Some of them have adapted so well to life in the human body that they can’t survive anywhere else. But we know very little about this “mycobiome” and what it is doing.

We know the fungi are there and we have read their DNA, but in the past it hasn’t been clear if they offer us any benefits or are mainly passive hitchhikers, with the odd infection-causing interloper. Now, though, a boom in interest in the bacteria that reside in our guts has spurred researchers to take a new look at fungi too, with an eye to unravelling the secrets they hold.

What they are finding is that our fungal residents can have a significant influence on our health, raising the prospect that we could manipulate them to boost our resilience against disease.

The good news is that we aren’t starting from scratch. For a start, we know that the fungi in our bodies are less diverse than the bacteria within us, probably by around a factor of 10, says Lindsay Kalan at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. We also know that certain fungi crop up consistently. For instance, a genus of yeast called Malassezia makes up the majority…


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