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A Rogue’s Gallery of Genomes

It makes me itchy just thinking about it: the genomes of seven skin-infecting fungi have revealed some surprising facts about these common but little-understood pathogens. The results, published in mBio this week, show these 7 dermatophytes all have one surprising feature that could help explain why athlete’s foot and other fungal skin infections are so very difficult to treat. And why they keep coming back after they’ve apparently been wiped out.

Dermatophytes cause some of the most common infections around, but since they seldom kill you, they don’t get the attention more virulent and demonstrative microbes enjoy (I’m looking at you, Ebola). We have dozens of complete genome sequences for fungal pathogens like Candida albicans, but until now not one athlete’s foot isolate - Trichophyton rubrum - had been sequenced.

Christina Cuomo of the Broad Institute co-authored the paper. She says athlete’s foot, like other dermatophytes, may not register as a global threat, but it does cause a great deal of distress, partly because of it’s tendency to re-occur.

“They’re infections that are difficult to treat and resolve. A lot of people carry T. rubrum as a commensal, and, as many people know, it’s difficult to get rid of completely – it can be an ongoing infective cycle,” says Cuomo.

Click on teh source link to read more on mBio's blog, mBiosphere.

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