Whole Genome Sequencing of All 14 Known Species of Malassezia Fungi Identifies Multiple Targets for Potential Treatments of Dandruff, Seborrheic Dermatitis, Eczema, and a Form of Skin Cancer

An international team of scientists, led by researchers from A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), and Bioinformatics Institute (BII), and Proctor & Gamble, has completed the first comprehensive genomic and biologic study of all known species of Malassezia, one of the top skin disease-causing microbes. The breakthrough study identified multiple potential targets for treating diseases such as seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and dandruff, all of which can be caused by Malassezia. Malassezia is also associated with skin cancer, the sixth most common cancer in males and the seventh in females in Singapore. These findings improve our understanding of the human skin microbiome, with significant implications for dermatology and immunology. The new study was published online on November 5, 2015 in the November issue of the open-access journal PLOS Genetics, under the title “Genus-Wide Comparative Genomics of Malassezia Delineates Its Phylogeny, Physiology, and Niche Adaptation on Human Skin.” Malassezia is a type of fungus found on the skin of all birds and warm-blooded mammals, including humans. Often, Malassezia simply forms part of our normal skin flora, but, for unknown reasons, it sometimes causes disease. In their article abstract, the authors noted that “Malassezia is a unique lipophilic genus in class Malasseziomycetes in Ustilaginomycotina, (Basidiomycota, fungi) that otherwise consists almost exclusively of plant pathogens. Malassezia are typically isolated from warm-blooded animals, are dominant members of the human skin mycobiome and are associated with common skin disorders.” Two particular species of Malassezia, namely M. restricta and M. globosa, are present on all human scalps and are responsible for common dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
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