Background: Epidemiological studies suggest that 15% of the population in industrial countries suffer from tinea pedis (athlete's foot) and that persons who do sports are a high-risk population.
Objective: To investigate the responsibility of dermatophytes in interdigital lesions of the feet in European marathon runners and to identify associated risk factors.
Subjects and methods: Runners of the 14th Médoc Marathon (n = 147) were interviewed on risk factors for tinea pedis and underwent physical and mycological examinations.
Results: Interdigital lesions of the feet were found in 66 runners (45%). A dermatophyte was isolated in 45 runners (31%), 12 of whom were asymptomatic. Trichophyton interdigitale and T. rubrum accounted for 49% and 35.5%, respectively, of the cases of tinea pedis. Thirty-three (22%) of the 102 runners free of dermatophyte infection had lesions resembling those of tinea pedis. Increasing age and use of communal bathing facilities were predictive of T. rubrum culture.
Conclusions: Marathon runners are at high risk for tinea pedis, but dermatophytes are responsible for only half of the foot lesions found in runners. The existence of asymptomatic carriers calls for prophylactic measures.