Malassezia is a type of yeast found on the skin of most wild birds and warm-blooded mammals, including humans. Often, Malassezia simply forms part of our normal epidermis flora, but also for unknown reasons it sometimes causes disease. In particular, two species of Malassezia, M. restricta, and M. globosa, can be found on all human scalps and are responsible for common dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
Dandruff occurs when Malassezia feeds off fatty external lipids secreted naturally on the scalp, and the digested lipids lead to discomfort partly. The hyperlink between dandruff and both species was first discovered, and their genomes sequenced fully, by Dr Thomas Dawson and his team at P&G in 2007, which also developed subsequent hair care technologies to focus on them.
However, much continued to be unidentified about Malassezia. By sequencing the genomes of most known Malassezia, (including multiple strains of these most common on human being skin), the team discovered hundreds of features explaining how the fungus may be able to thrive on human skin. The dependence of most Malassezia species on lipids for survival was also established, and the theory that they are sexually active remains supported.
Through this knowledge, scientists can start to find ways to control their activity on human-being skin, and work towards the recovery of healthy epidermis. Importantly, a gene unique to Malassezia and in no other related fungi were found also. This gene is potentially the one which first allowed Malassezia to change from living only on plants to being able to go on animals, birds, and humans.
In other words, by targeting this gene, we may have the ability to eliminate Malassezia on individual epidermis, or weaken its development and survival significantly. This discovery thus lays the groundwork for future work to develop therapeutics targeting the gene for a range of skin diseases. The analysis is especially relevant to Singapore and Southeast Asia, considering that the humid and hot environment provides a perfect environment for fungi to prosper.
In fact, Singapore has the highest reported occurrence of fungal-mediated skin condition in the world, with about one in five people experiencing atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Therapeutics and additional research addressing Malassezia would therefore have popular applications in your community. Furthermore, scientists are increasingly turning to the human microbiota and the microorganisms living on humans for greater insight on human health.
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115 million over five years. Malassezia performs a dominating role in the human being microbiota and knowing more about these fungi substantially boosts our overall understanding. Specifically, a data source with the sequenced Malassezia genomes has been made public, allowing analysts worldwide to learn more about what was previously considered ‘dark matter’ on the skin.
Salami recalls one crisis that led to him losing eyesight in one eye after a blood vessel burst. “My eye proceeded to go blind because of sickle cell. It was such as a broken mirror in my eye – it was just black, I thought an eyelash was experienced by me stuck to my eye. That’s after I thought this is serious, visited the hospital,” he says.