Chorioamnionitis is caused by intrauterine infection with microorganisms including Candida albicans (C.albicans). Chorioamnionitis is associated with postnatal intestinal pathologies including necrotizing enterocolitis. The underlying mechanisms by which intra-amniotic C.albicans infection adversely affects the fetal gut remain unknown. Therefore, we assessed whether intra-amniotic C.albicans infection would cause intestinal inflammation and mucosal injury in an ovine model. Additionally, we tested whether treatment with the fungistatic fluconazole ameliorated the adverse intestinal outcome of intra-amniotic C.albicans infection. Pregnant sheep received intra-amniotic injections with 107 colony-forming units C.albicans or saline at 3 or 5 days before preterm delivery at 122 days of gestation. Fetuses were given intra-amniotic and intra-peritoneal fluconazole treatments 2 days after intra-amniotic administration of C.albicans. Intra-amniotic C.albicans caused intestinal colonization and invasive growth within the fetal gut with mucosal injury and intestinal inflammation, characterized by increased CD3+ lymphocytes, MPO+ cells and elevated TNF-α and IL-17 mRNA levels. Fluconazole treatment in utero decreased intestinal C.albicans colonization, mucosal injury but failed to attenuate intestinal inflammation. Intra-amniotic C.albicans caused intestinal infection, injury and inflammation. Fluconazole treatment decreased mucosal injury but failed to ameliorate C.albicans-mediated mucosal inflammation emphasizing the need to optimize the applied antifungal therapeutic strategy.
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