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article imageDandruff fungus found in deep-sea vents

By Tim Sandle     Aug 25, 2014 in Environment
A ubiquitous skin fungus linked to dandruff, eczema and other itchy, flaky maladies in humans has now been tracked to Hawaiian coral reefs and the extreme environments of arctic soils and deep sea vents.
The fungus, of the genus Malassezia, has been shown to be incredibly hardy and ecologically diverse. The new insights were gained from genetic screening environmental samples located from around the world.
With people, because the fungus requires fat to grow, it is most common in areas with many sebaceous glands: on the scalp,face, and upper part of the body. However, people were not the subject of scientific inquiry this time.
Through this analysis, scientists discovered that members of this genus have an ecological diversity far greater than previously thought. Until recently, these fungi were assumed to inhabit mammalian skin only. The later discovery in the marine environment was quite surprising.
Researchers have found multiple new examples of these fungi on corals, sponges and algae and in water samples, deep sea thermal vents and sediments from Hawaii and around the world. The fungus is found in the most extreme and disconnected habitats on the planet, including arctic soils and hydrothermal vents.
Furthermore, marine mammals like seals, as well as fish, lobsters, sponges, plankton, and corals apparently also have that Malassezia itch just like many people who suffer with dandruff. Furthermore, the fungus might also be linked to a reef banding disease observed by marine biologists at Palmyra Atoll.
The research was conducted by University of Hawai'i at Mānoa scientist Anthony Amend. The findings have been published in the journal PLOS Pathogens. The paper is titled “From Dandruff to Deep-Sea Vents: Malassezia-like Fungi Are Ecologically Hyper-diverse.”
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