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Isolation of Dermatophytes (and Other Fungi) from Human Nail and Skin Dust Produced by Podiatric Medical Treatments in Australia

Steven Hainsworth BAppSci(Pod), MMedSc(Path), John F. Hamblin BAppSc(MLS), GDipComp, MAppSc(MLS), and Thiru Vanniasinkam PhD, FASM
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Background

Podiatric physicians routinely use electric drills for the treatment of nail and skin conditions. The grinding process produces human nail and skin dust that is generally vacuumed into bags in the grinding unit. Many of the nails are thought to be mycotic, particularly because they are obtained from patients with symptoms of dermatophyte infections. Currently, there is limited information available on the detection of fungi from nail dust samples. Herein, we attempt to address this situation and outline some of the difficulties that pathology laboratories face in isolating and identifying dermatophytes from nail samples.

Methods

Fifty nail dust bags from podiatric medical clinics across all of the states and territories of Australia were collected and analyzed. Samples from the bags were inoculated onto primary isolation media. Fungal colonies that grew were then inoculated onto potato dextrose agar for identification using standard morphological (macroscopic and microscopic) features.

Results

One hundred fifty-one colonies of dermatophytes were identified from 43 of the 50 samples. In addition 471 nondermatophyte molds were isolated, along with some yeasts and bacteria.

Conclusions

The most common dermatophytes isolated were from the Trichophyton mentagrophytes/interdigitale complexes. Trichophyton rubrum, Trichophyton tonsurans, Trichophyton soudanense, and Epidermophyton floccosum were also isolated. An unidentified group of dermatophytes was also present. The three most common genera of nondermatophyte molds were Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Scopulariopsis, all of which have been implicated in onychomycosis and more general disease. The presence of viable fungal pathogens in the dust could potentially pose a health problem to podiatric physicians.

Beaconsfield Podiatry, Beaconsfield, Australia.

Department of Microbiology, Monash Health, Clayton, Australia.

School of Biomedical Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Corresponding author: Steven Hainsworth, BAppSci(Pod), MMedSc(Path), Beaconsfield Podiatry, 7/70 Old Princes Hwy, Beaconsfield, VIC 3807, Australia. (E-mail: stephen1591@bigpond.com)