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- Dermatophytes: filamentous fungi that colonize and digest keratinized structures such as the stratum corneum of skin, hair and nails.
- Cause of superficial infections at those sites with local inflammation and damage.
- Deeper invasion of the dermis and subcutaneous tissues are rare.
- Dozens of species within 3 genera: T. rubrum is the most commonly isolated organism, but microbiology of infection varies by geographic locale and exposure history.
- Trichophyton (e.g. T. rubrum, T. interdigitale, T. mentagrophytes, T. tonsurans, T. verrucosum)
- Microsporum (e.g. M. canis, M. persicolor)
- Epidermophyton (E. floccosum).
- Certain species have a tendency for infection of specific structures: Trichophyton--hair nails and skin, Microsporum--hair and skin, Epidermophyton--skin and nails.
- Dermatophytes can also be classified according to usual habitat: anthropophilic (humans, e.g. T. rubrum, T. tonsurans, E. floccosum), zoophilic (cats, dogs, e.g. M. canis, T. verrucosum and M. persicolor), geophilic (soil, e.g. M. gypseum).
- Acquisition of dermatophyte spores: can be via direct contact with a human or animal carrier, or indirectly from contaminated surfaces, including household items such as clothing, towels, bedding and combs.