A group of cutaneous mycoses called tineas are caused by dermatophytes, fungal molds that require keratin, a protein found in skin, hair, and nails, for growth. There are three genera of dermatophytes, all of which can cause cutaneous mycoses: Trichophyton, Epidermophyton, and Microsporum. Tineas on most areas of the body are generally called ringworm, but tineas in specific locations may have distinctive names and symptoms. Keep in mind that these names—even though they are Latinized—refer to locations on the body, not causative organisms. Tineas can be caused by different dermatophytes in most areas of the body.
Dermatophytes are commonly found in the environment and in soils and are frequently transferred to the skin via contact with other humans and animals. Fungal spores can also spread on hair. Many dermatophytes grow well in moist, dark environments. For example, tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) commonly spreads in public showers, and the causative fungi grow well in the dark, moist confines of sweaty shoes and socks. Likewise, tinea cruris (jock itch) often spreads in communal living environments and thrives in warm, moist undergarments.
Tineas on the body (tinea corporis) often produce lesions that grow radially and heal towards the center. This causes the formation of a red ring, leading to the misleading name of ringworm.
Several approaches may be used to diagnose tineas. A Wood’s lamp (also called a black lamp) with a wavelength of 365 nm is often used. When directed on a tinea, the ultraviolet light emitted from the Wood’s lamp causes the fungal elements (spores and hyphae) to fluoresce. Direct microscopic evaluation of specimens from skin scrapings, hair, or nails can also be used to detect fungi. Generally, these specimens are prepared in a wet mount using a potassium hydroxide solution (10%–20% aqueous KOH), which dissolves the keratin in hair, nails, and skin cells to allow for visualization of the hyphae and fungal spores. The specimens may be grown on Sabouraud dextrose CC (chloramphenicol/cyclohexamide), a selective agar that supports dermatophyte growth while inhibiting the growth of bacteria and saprophytic fungi. Macroscopic colony morphology is often used to initially identify the genus of the dermatophyte; identification can be further confirmed by visualizing the microscopic morphology using either a slide culture or a sticky tape prep stained with lactophenol cotton blue.
Various antifungal treatments can be effective against tineas. Allylamine ointments that include terbinafine are commonly used; miconazole and clotrimazole are also available for topical treatment, and griseofulvin is used orally.
Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/microbiology