Foot Fungus Revealed

A new study profiles the garden of fungal organism that grows on human feet.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Jul 2, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, JAKUB MARTYNSKIAthlete’s foot and toenail fungus are just the tip of a fungal iceberg when it comes to the species that inhabit the human foot, according to a recently published study. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found an average of 50 species of fungi living on the feet of 10 healthy adults. Their results were published in a May issue of Nature.

The scientists also swabbed the study participants’ other body parts—including behind the ear, between the eyebrows, and on the chest, back, nostril, scalp, and various parts of the arm. But nowhere were fungal communities more diverse than on the foot. What’s more, the fungal assemblages living on people’s feet fluctuated wildly compared to those found elsewhere on the body. When study subjects were swabbed a second time a few months after the initial samples were taken, the researchers found that the fungal communities...

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