Nice paper on Malassezia-like Fungi – commonly found in human skin – but also found in many other places

FIGURE 1: Phylogenetic Tree of Malassezia-like sequences derived from environmental DNA sequences and isolates. From Amend et al.

Nice new paper that may be of interest: PLOS Pathogens: From Dandruff to Deep-Sea Vents: Malassezia-like Fungi Are Ecologically Hyper-diverse by Anthony Amend.

Malassezia are commonly found in many studies of human skin and when they have been found in other places sometimes it is thought that they are vagrants having come from the skin of humans or other animals.  And they are certainly found relatively commonly in buildings and other human occupied locales.  For example see:

and more.  Given the widespread “natural” distribution of this group of organisms it seems reasonable that one should no longer assume that the Malassezia one finds in a building has to be coming from skin.

7 thoughts on “Nice paper on Malassezia-like Fungi – commonly found in human skin – but also found in many other places

  1. It makes sense that Malassezia would be under-represented in past culture-based surveys because it doesn’t grow on standard fungal media. It requires special media containing lipids. I have a bottle of Cremora on my chemical shelf just for cultivating the Malassezia strains in the Phaff Yeast Culture Collection at UC Davis. The Cremora agar is a much cleaner emulsion than the old messy olive oil/surfactant recipe.

  2. We are continuously mixing-up the Human microbiome with the building microbiome. Malassezia does not grow in buildings, but it is usually detected in buildings because humans and animals occupy buildings. The problem is that DNA methods cannot distinguish between growing organisms and settled, and even dead fragments of “Malassezia-like” fungi. What is that? Amanita phalloides is deadly, while A. caesarea is gourmet food. Who would eat an Amanita-like fungus. The building microbiome has to be characterized better, anything else is speculation. PLEASE use direct observation methods in combination with sequencing when you characterize the source of microorganisms. In many cases like Malassezia you are simply detecting a sink.

    1. The paper here discusses the issue of DNA vs. living and I am (relatively) convinced that they are detecting living species in these diverse environments. See the section “How Do We Know that Malassezia Detected in Marine Environmental DNA Aren’t Contaminants?”

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Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. My lab is in the UC Davis Genome Center and I hold appointments in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and the Department of Evolution and Ecology in the College of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis (see my lab site here which has more information on lab activities).  In addition to research, I am heavily involved in the Open Access publishing and Open Science movements.