Fungi favor feet

By John Pastor • Published: August 14th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Scientists associated with the Belly Button Diversity Project are probing the recesses of the navel in search of microbial life on our outer spaces.

Now, a group of scientists with the National Institutes of Health have expanded the frontier across the epidural landscape, seeking out new blooms of fungal life.

Out of the big three life forms of the skin microbiome (Micro – by- ome) … bacteria, viruses, and fungi … fungi have finally entered the genomic age.

Using DNA sequencing tools optimized to find the tiny parasitic plants, scientists with National Human Genome Research Institute and the National Cancer Institute left no toenail unturned in efforts to understand fungal diversity.

One thing is quite clear. When it comes to finding a place to homestead, fungi favor feet. Toenails, heels and loose skin between toes have tremendously diverse fungal communities.

Comparatively, those havens of bacteria we refer to as “hands” are home to only a few types of fungi. The head and trunk, meanwhile, seem to harbor just a single type of fungus.

Researchers started their genomic mushroom hunt by sampling 14 body sites on healthy volunteers.

From those samples, the scientists collected and sorted more than 5 million fragments of DNA, which revealed more than 80 types of fungus. Traditional culturing methods turned up only 18 fungal types.

Fungal infections affect about 29 million Americans. Researchers say by learning about these fungal communities, we can better understand skin diseases and conditions that can be related to cancer treatments.

Human skin surfaces are extremely complex systems. Scientists finally think they have begun to draw a baseline about the types of body fungus found on healthy individuals.

At the very least, they have a foothold.