Mycology of dermatophyte infections

Author: Hon A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2003.

What is mycology?

Mycology is the study of fungi.

What are dermatophyte fungi?

Dermatophyte fungi are the ringworm fungi (tinea). They depend on their host, which may be an animal ("zoophilic") or a human ("anthropophilic") and need to spread from one host to another to survive. Dermatophytes may also prefer to live in the soil ("geophilic").

Anthropophilic dermatophytes are so well adapted to living on human skin that they provoke minimal inflammatory reaction. Zoophilic or geophilic dermatophytes will often provoke a more vigorous inflammatory reaction when they attempt to invade human skin.

There are three genera of dermatophytes, recognised by the nature of their macroconidae (asexual spores):

There are about 40 species. Their spores can live for more than a year in human skin scales in the environment.

Anthropophilic organisms include:

Zoophilic organisms include:

Geophilic organisms include:

How are dermatophyte fungi diagnosed?

The presence of a dermatophyte infection is confirmed by microscopy and culture of skin scrapings in a laboratory. Histopathological examination of skin or nail biopsy using periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stains can reveal fungal elements.

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