Biodiversity of mycobial communities in health and onychomycosis

Michael Olbrich, Anna Lara Ernst, Foteini Beltsiou, Katja Bieber, Sascha Ständer, Melanie Harder, Waltraud Anemüller, Birgit Köhler, Detlef Zillikens, Hauke Busch*, Axel Künstner, Ralf J. Ludwig

*Corresponding author for this work


Onychomycosis (OM) is a common fungal nail infection. Based on the rich mycobial diversity in healthy toenails, we speculated that this is lost in OM due to the predominance of a single pathogen. We used next generation sequencing to obtain insights into the biodiversity of fungal communities in both healthy individuals and OM patients. By sequencing, a total of 338 operational-taxonomic units were found in OM patients and healthy controls. Interestingly, a classifier distinguished three distinct subsets: healthy controls and two groups within OM patients with either a low or high abundance of Trichophyton. Diversity per sample was decreased in controls compared to cases with low Trichophyton abundance (LTA), while cases with a high Trichophyton abundance (HTA) showed a lower diversity. Variation of mycobial communities between the samples showed shifts in the community structure between cases and controls—mainly driven by HTA cases. Indeed, LTA cases had a fungal β-diversity undistinguishable from that of healthy controls. Collectively, our data provides an in-depth characterization of fungal diversity in health and OM. Our findings also suggest that onychomycosis develops either through pathogen-driven mechanisms, i.e., in HTA cases, or through host and/or environmental factors, i.e., in cases with a low Trichophyton abundance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8872
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)8872
Publication statusPublished - 25.05.2022

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)
  • Centers: Center for Research on Inflammation of the Skin (CRIS)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 204-05 Immunology
  • 204-03 Medical Microbiology and Mycology, Hygiene, Molecular Infection Biology
  • 205-19 Dermatology


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