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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athlete’s_foot)
Image: Human hair covered in bacteria (magenta) and fungi (blue). Photo by Alex Valm.
Reference: Findley et al., Nature 2013 http://goo.gl/EqkPk