Study of the role of intestinal fungal communities (the mycobiota) to spondyloarthritis development

01 January 2018 → 31 December 2018
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
No data available
intestinal fungal communities
Project description

The human body is in constant interaction with a complex group of micro-organisms like bacteria,

viruses and fungi which populate various body surfaces like our skin, lungs and gut. These organisms

generally do not pose a threat to the host but in contrary have many beneficial functions like

stimulating the correct development of our immune system. Until now, research has mainly focused

on bacteria (16S sequencing), while fungi have largely been overlooked. Enteric fungi represent a

significant part of the intestinal microbiota, but their role in human health and disease is barely

studied. Spondyloarthritis (SpA) is a common immune pathology which causes severe spine and

joint inflammation. The lab of Prof. Dirk Elewaut was the first to show a mechanistic link between

spondyloarthritis and intestinal inflammation. Interestingly, anti-fungal immune reponses require

Th17 immune activation, an immune arm commonly hyperactivated in arthritic disease. We

therefore hypothesize that abberrant antifungal immune responses may be contributing to arthritic

pathology. Alternatively, homeostatic fungal-host interactions may be important for both mucosal

and systemic immune homeostasis. With this project, we propose to study in detail the contribution

of naturally occurring intestinal fungi to SpA development in a multi-disciplinary manner, using

elegant genetic mouse models of disease and state-of-the-art technologies, including germ free and

gnotobiotic mice.