Occurrence and diversity of dermatophyte mycoflora in 298 soil samples from Ahvaz, Southwest of Iran was investigated by using the hair-baiting technique. The samples were collected during spring (n = 210) and autumn (n = 88) of 2015, and the fungal isolates were identified based on the macro- and micro-morphology of colonies and with further ITS-rDNA RFLP and sequencing. Totally, 60 soil samples (20.1%) were positive for dermatophyte growth whose pH varied from 7.0 to 7.9. The highest (26.6%) and the lowest (14.3%) recovery rates were from the animal resorts and the streets soils samples, respectively. Seasonally, 16.7% of the spring samples and 28.4% of the autumn samples were positive. Based on molecular identification, three species of two genera were identified viz. M. fulvum (n = 57), M. canis (n = 2) and zoophilic Trichophyton interdigitale (n = 1). As a specific goal in the study, differentiation of the species in Microsporum gypseum complex was established by measuring the mean length and width of macroconidia in some strains of M. gypseum, M. fulvum and M. incurvatum. Mean size for macroconidia length and width in three species showed that M. gypseum and M. incurvatum can morphologically be differentiated from M. fulvum but not from each other. M. fulvum was the most abundant species isolated from the soils of Ahvaz; however, to comprehensively specify the distribution pattern of geophilic dermatophytes in the soils of this city further investigations are needed. Identification based on micro-morphometric is not effective for species distinction in M. gypseum complex, while molecular procedures based on sequencing of certain DNA regions are the most reliable and applicable strategies for this purpose.
Keywords: Keratinophilic dermatophyte; Microsporum fulvum; Soil.