Zoom in on microorganisms

Germs that infect humans

Trichophyton rubrum

Trichophyton rubrum

© Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.

Microorganism: the molds Trichophyton rubrum, T. mentagrophytes var. interdigitale, and Epidermophyton floccosum.

Disease: athlete's foot

Mechanism of action of the microorganism: the molds usually multiply between the toes, where the warm, humid, and dark environment provides ideal growth conditions. The molds responsible for athlete's foot form spores and so are very resistant.

Symptoms of the disease: peeling of the skin in thin strips (desquamation), usually between the toes. Itching may be experienced.

Incubation period: unknown.

Contagious period: as long as the condition persists or the molds survive in contaminated materials (shower, bath, socks).

Hosts: humans.

Transmission: direct contact with lesions or with a contaminated surface.

Treatment of the disease: any of a number of fungicides, e.g., clotrimazole. Frequent airing out of the feet.

Geographical distribution of the microorganism: worldwide.

Prevention: strict personal hygiene, including careful drying of the area between the toes after baths and showers. Application of an appropriate antifungal powder on the feet; regular cleaning of the bath and shower, especially if infected individuals are using them.

Vaccine: none.