Review Article

Fungal Alterations in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Siu Lam; Tao Zuo; Martin Ho; Francis K. L. Chan; Paul K. S. Chan; Siew C. Ng


Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2019;50(11):1159-1171. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Emerging data suggest that alterations in gut fungi may be associated with the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In healthy individuals, gut commensal fungi act synergistically with other members of the microbiota to maintain homeostasis but their role in IBD is less clear.

Aim: To review the role of gut fungi and their trans-kingdom interactions with bacteria in IBD

Methods: A literature search was conducted on Ovid and Pubmed to select relevant animal and human studies that have reported fungi and IBD.

Results: There is an increased total fungal load particularly of Candida and Malassezia species in the faeces and mucosa of Crohn's disease patients, and a lower fungal diversity in the faeces of ulcerative colitis patients. Caspase recruitment domain-containing protein (CARD)-9 polymorphism in Crohn's disease patients favours Malassezia colonisation that worsens gut inflammation. Diet high in carbohydrates increased the total abundance of Candida species, whereas protein-rich diet had the opposite effect. Anti-fungal therapies are mostly used to treat Candida albicans or Histoplasma capsulatum infections in IBD, whereas pilot studies of supplementing fungal probiotics Saccharomycopsis fibuligera, Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-3856 strain showed therapeutic effects in IBD.

Conclusions: Gut fungi are altered in patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Modulation of the fungal microbiota can be considered as a therapeutic approach for IBD. Future research should focus on understanding how the fungal microbiota interacts with other components of the gut microbiota in association with the pathogenesis and development of IBD.