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Even though Dermatophyte infections do not cause death most of the time, they are difficult to treat and can be extremely painful [4]. In one instance in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in 1966-1969, 50% if the American troops in the region were put out of action by a Dermatophyte infection [3]. In another well documented incident 50% of American troops showed symptoms of infection after being deployed in the hot and humid climate of Panama in the 1980s [3]. 500 million dollars a year are spent worldwide in the treatment of Dermatophyte infections [4]. While this might seem like an enormous amount of money being spent in treatment for fungi that are most of the time non-lethal, it is important to take into account three factors. First is that due to the fact that the main source of nutrients of these fungi is keratin, almost any surface of the body can be colonized by Dermatophytes (including feet, torso, scalp and nails), second is that there are not any effective treatments to treat these infections, and third is that in many species (like Trichophyton rubrum) there is relapse after treatment [3].  Out of all the Dermatophyte infections the species Trichophyton rubrum is the most prevalent [5] which is probably due to the fact that Trichophyton rubrum is endemic to all continents except for Antarctica [4]. At the Canadian National Center 58% of Dermatophylic isolates were Trichophyton rubrum [5]. Trichophyton rubrum releases proteases that not only degrade proteins in epithelial surfaces but also help with the adhesion and sequential invasion of the host [3]. Once the host becomes infected the fungus causes itchy and flaky skin that is sometimes accompanied by redness and swelling [5]. Infections are characterized by what part of the body they are found. Currently there are six categories: Tinea pedis (feet), tinea cruris (proximal medial thights, preum and buttocks), tinea unguium (nails), tinea corporis (body), tinea barbae (beard) and tinea capitis (scalp) [5] (tinea corporis and tinea cruris are commonly known as ringworm). Different fungi can cause one or more of these six conditions and Trichophyton rubrum is known to cause all of them [5]. The most common form of transmission is through the feet as skin scales left in carpets or mats are excellent vectors for transmission and can survive for month or even year on these substrates [5]. The reason that skin scales are so infectious is that they contain hyphal elements of the fungi which are able to replicate and parasitize a new host [5].


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© Fabian Ornelas

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