Remember all those dire fungus warnings you got from your Mom, the swimming coach and all those high school gym teachers? Turns out they were right.
A new study confirms that foot infections like athlete’s foot and toenail fungus do spread from person to person in locker rooms, swimming pool areas and even between family members.
Although it has long been believed athlete’s foot and toenail fungus were contagious, researchers say it’s the first time they’ve been able to provide evidence for it.
Using high-tech molecular biology techniques, researchers were able to trace the spread of the same tiny organisms, called dermatophytes, responsible for tinea, also known as common toenail, foot or skin fungus.
Doctors have never been able to caution patients with certainty that toenail fungus or athlete’s foot can spread from person to person, researchers say. what we can see from the current findings is the value of treating toenail fungus and athlete’s foot to try to prevent its spread.
Researchers say more than 35 million people are affected by toenail fungus, which causes the affected toenails to become discolored, brittle, thickened, and flaky.
The infection is known as tinea pedis, and is caused by a group of tiny organisms called dermatophytes – the same fungus responsible for athlete’s foot. That common foot infection causes a rash on the skin of the foot and affects 10 percent of the population.
Researchers studied 57 families in which at least one member had toenail fungus and/or athlete’s foot. Of these families, 19 had at least two members who were infected.
Using a combination of microbiology and DNA matching techniques, researchers were able to confirm that identical infection-causing dermatophytes were present in 42 percent of affected family members. Researchers say matching the DNA of the same dermatophytes among members of the same household clearly indicates each family member had the identical strain of dermatophyte, which confirms that the infection was transmitted from one family member to the other, either directly or indirectly.
Questionnaires completed by the participants showed the likelihood of the spread of the foot infection within a household was tied to the strain of fungus and whether anyone in the family had nail discoloration or scaling of the skin on the side of the foot or a past history of toenail fungus and athlete’s foot.
This study raises questions we will look at in the future, one researcher states. for instance, why did the infection spread among some families but not others, and why did some members of a household become infected while others did not? When we can answer these questions, we will be closer to knowing how to eradicate these very common and highly persistent infections.
So if you or a family member has a toenail or skin fungus, or if you are involved with athletics, locker rooms or common pool areas, please wear shoes or flip flops and make an extreme effort to avoid exposing bare feet to areas where other people have showered or walked.
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