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Foot fungi a thriving, diverse community

Toes and heels have the most fungal types

12:52pm, May 22, 2013

FUNGUS AMONG US One genus of fungi (green and blue specks) colonizes most of human skin, including this hair follicle from a person’s back. But more than 80 different groups reside on the feet. 

For house-hunting fungi, feet are prime real estate.

More than 80 different types of fungi make human feet home, researchers report May 22 in Nature. The tiny organisms stake claims all over a person’s skin, but only the feet carry such a diverse group of settlers, says study coauthor Julie Segre, a geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md.

The study is the first census of skin-dwelling fungi. By helping to identify differences between healthy and unhealthy fungi, it could one day lead to targeted treatments for athlete’s foot or toenail infections.

“This study will get people’s attention,” says physician and microbiologist Martin Blaser of the New York University School of Medicine. Researchers have generally focused on our bacterial companions, not our fungal ones, he says.

Unlike bacteria, fungi are hard to grow in the lab. Culturing fungi from an infected toenail can take weeks, says

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