Fungus Among Us : Now that we’re finally comfortable about the microbiome in our gut, here comes news that our body…

Fungus Among Us : Now that we’re finally comfortable about the microbiome in our gut, here comes news that our body surface is teeming with fungi! Researchers have sequenced and analysed fungal communities of 14 skin sites in 10 healthy adults. Most were dominated by species of Malassezia, a fat-loving Basidiomycete that lurks on oily scalps and promotes dandruff. Because this organism has lost the ability to synthesize essential fatty acids, it secretes dozens of enzymes that break down the oils on our skin. Lotions are Potions, yum! 

Fungal Foot Fetish: Surprisingly, our feet host the greatest fungal diversity- up to a 100 different species. Scientists speculate that the cooler temperatures of our extremities may allow our fungal friends to proliferate. But don’t be so quick to sanitize this microbial garden: most of these fungi are harmless commensals and keep the more dangerous microbes at bay. An imbalance can lead to nasty fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Did you know that this disease is virtually absent in barefoot cultures? (See’s_foot)

Image: Human hair covered in bacteria (magenta) and fungi (blue). Photo by Alex Valm.

Reference: Findley et al., Nature 2013


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36 Responses to Fungus Among Us : Now that we’re finally comfortable about the microbiome in our gut, here comes news that our body…

  1. Terry McNeil says:

    Isn’t the human body a wonderful thing. 🙂

  2. Spock eyebrow raise Fascinating.

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    One of the researchers encouraged applying lotions to fertilize our fungal gardens. Errr…I skipped my after-shower lotion step today 😉

  4. Arnav Kalra says:

    On one hand I’m feeling yucky and hating on these fungi for causing dandruff and on the other they’re a part of nature and not troubling me. #Whattodo ?

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    I’m going to try to stay dry, Qrious hominid 🙂 Although those budding yeast on that hair shaft in the image do look cute! 

  6. Arnav Kalra says:

    Rajini Rao Staying dry during north indian summers is difficult, to say the very least.

    46C :sigh:

    That image is cute. At this scale everything looks cute (except viruses).

  7. Henk Poley says:

    The million $£€ question is of course how do you cultivate the right ones.

  8. Arnav Kalra says:

    Henk Poley Take a nutrient medium, apply it on your skin and grow cultures of your favourite fungi/bacteria. Warning : Might feel yucky and you may be better off with  the natural nutrient medium i.e. your skin.

  9. Henk Poley says:

    Qrious hominid You are a fun guy 😉

  10. Rajini Rao says:

    Qrious hominid , my sympathies..I remember those summers well. Hope the monsoons arrive on time. 

    Henk Poley , good question! It must come down to good diet, hygiene and habits. Fungal infections are particularly nasty since they cannot be targeted by antibacterial antibiotics: there are only a few classes of antifungal drugs and resistance is a problem.

  11. #TIL Rajini Rao Thanks for this post! I still hate lotions. Don’t like the sticky feeling on my skin. Plus, they seem to attract mosquitoes.

  12. Arnav Kalra says:

    Henk Poley he he, Rajini Rao is way more fun than I am, esp. when it comes to answering questions.

    Rajini Rao How would an antibiotic act on an organism which lives outside your body?

  13. Rajini Rao says:

    I have plenty of Yeast Peptone Dextrose (YPD) medium in my lab to culture Fun Guys 🙂 

  14. Rajini Rao says:

    Qrious hominid , surface antibiotics attack skin bacteria and superficial wounds in much the same way as they do when ingested or injected. The formulation is different but the drugs inhibit essential functions in the bacteria and kill or stop them from growing. 

  15. Arnav Kalra says:

    Rajini Rao So the compounds are excreted along with sweat?

  16. Rajini Rao says:

    Oh I see that you are asking about natural antibiotics? We do make antimicrobial peptides, such as dermcidin, which combines with minute amounts of zinc in sweat and punctures bacterial cell membranes to kill them.

  17. Arnav Kalra says:

    Rajini Rao No, just wanted to know about the mechanism of action of antibiotics, have an idea of the journey it undertakes after I’ve popped in a tablet.

  18. Arnav Kalra says:

    This is interesting. Shows that our body knows about the dangers it faces. Also, we’ve a brain to make up for the holes in our body’s knowledge.

  19. Rajini Rao says:

    Antibiotics target cell pathways that are unique to bacteria (prokaryotes) and spare our cells (eukaryotes).  Examples are bacterial cell walls (penicillin), bacterial protein synthesis/ribosomes (tetracycline) and metabolic pathways such as folic acid production (sulfa drugs). 

  20. Arnav Kalra says:

    Rajini Rao I get that. How does it reach those bacteria?

    If they are in my blood stream then I do understand that the antibiotic would be absorbed from the gi tract and transported to the rest of our body.

    You mentioned surface antibiotics, how do they reach the skin? Are they excreted along with sweat or what?

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Qrious hominid , depending on the chemical properties of the antibiotic, some of it may indeed be excreted through sweat (most of it is cleared by our kidneys or broken down in liver). But the easiest way to deal with skin infections is to apply topical antibiotics directly on the skin. I was surprised to learn that our bodies make ~1,700 antimicrobial peptides that are naturally secreted through sweat 😮 

  22. Arnav Kalra says:

    Rajini Rao =-O wow.

    Catherine Maguire I feel one should do so daily to get rid of smell.

  23. Fungus amongus… Welcome to my body… We are a barefoot as much as we can family.

  24. sri bab says:

    Science the way of our life..!!

  25. Arnav Kalra says:

    Kriti Gangwar you’re the first medical student I’ve seen on Google plus. Therefore circled. Can the drug get out of the skin?

  26. Ruby Garnett says:

    Absolutely astounding.. The human body is

  27. Thanks. Good stuff!

  28. Murali Adari says:

    All this to prove that as much exists in universe unbeknownst to us so does within us and on us!

  29. Rajini Rao says:

    Well said, Murali Adari .

  30. Interesting stuff! I hope the uBiome project ( will include also fungi soon in their citizen science project. I’ve already signed up for uBiome 😉

  31. Rajini Rao says:

    That’s exciting, do keep us informed of the project Heikki Arponen .

  32. OK I will, Rajini Rao. We should get the sample kits in a couple of months!

  33. Ken Romine says:

    Your very well read .kind of sexy. So to the point matter of fact kendg

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