Background: Dermatophytes are the main cause of superficial mycoses in humans and animals. Molecular research has given useful insights into the phylogeny and taxonomy of the dermatophytes to overcome the difficulties with conventional diagnostics.
Objectives: The Trichophyton mentagrophytes complex consists of anthropophilic as well as zoophilic species. Although several molecular markers have been developed for the differentiation of strains belonging to T. mentagrophytes sensu lato, correct identification still remains problematic, especially concerning the delineation of anthropophilic and zoophilic strains of T. interdigitale. This differentiation is not academic but is essential for selection of the correct antimycotic therapy to treat infected patients.
Methods: One hundred and thirty isolates identified by morphological characteristics as T. mentagrophytes sensu lato were investigated using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) and sequence analysis of the polymerase chain reaction-amplified internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the rDNA.
Results: Species of this complex produced individual RFLP patterns obtained by the restriction enzyme MvaI. Subsequent sequence analysis of the ITS1, 5.8S and ITS2 region of all strains, but of T. interdigitale in particular, revealed single unique polymorphisms in anthropophilic and zoophilic strains.
Conclusions: Signature polymorphisms were observed to be useful for the differentiation of these strains and epidemiological data showed a host specificity among zoophilic strains of T. interdigitale/Arthroderma vanbreuseghemii compared with A. benhamiae as well as characteristic clinical pictures in humans when caused by zoophilic or anthropophilic strains. The delineation is relevant because it helps in determining the correct treatment and provides clues regarding the source of the infection.