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Scientists Map the Fungi on Your Feet
Date:5/22/2013

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Anyone who has ever wrestled with athlete's foot knows there is something about feet that fungi seem to like. But scientists now have the first detailed "map" of the fungal groups that live on your skin -- and, yes, your feet are the hottest neighborhood.

It's no secret that the human body is awash in microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, both outside and inside. And it's mainly a friendly relationship that helps your body run smoothly and ward off disease, including infection with harmful microbes.

In fact, "it's because of these relationships that we're here," said Dr. David Relman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. He was not involved in the study.

Microbes "evolved with us," and are part of humans, said Relman, who is also president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. But until now, relatively little has been known about the fungal "communities" that dot the landscape of people's skin; scientists have much more information on bacterial residents, which are easier to study.

The new study, reported online May 22 in the journal Nature, took advantage of DNA-sequencing technology to analyze the fungi on 10 healthy volunteers' skin.

The result is a "much broader and deeper assessment of fungal diversity than we've had before," said Relman.

And it turns out that the most diverse fungal communities are on the sole of the foot under the heel, around the toenails and in the webbing between the toes.

On one hand, that's not surprising because the feet are a common site of fungal infections, said researcher Julie Segre, a senior investigator at the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute.

Those infections include toenail fungus and athlete's foot. But there are plenty of other fungal infections, too --
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