Previously Unknown Species that Causes Skin Infections in Humans Identified

Researchers at Teikyo University identified the species of pathogenic algae through a biopsy of a chronic skin ulcer.

Researchers from Teikyo University in Tokyo, led by Koichi Makimura, MD, have identified a previously unknown species of pathogenic algae that causes skin infections in humans.

The micro-organism was named Prototheca cutis by the researchers after they compared the specimen to other strains. The sample, obtained by researchers through a biopsy of a chronic human skin ulcer, was determined to be genetically similar to Prototheca wickerhamii, a rare algal species that has previously been associated with human skin infection, septicemia, or meningitis.

According to Makimura, because there have been so few reported cases of algal species infections in humans, very little research has been done to learn more about them.

"Antifungal drugs are most often used to treat algal infections but are not always successful," he said. "We need to closely monitor Prototheca infections to understand their spread and mechanisms of causing disease, which are as yet unknown. This information will then help us develop appropriate treatments."

Kazuo Satoh, MD, who conducted the study, believes the results could also have an impact on industry.

"Prototheca infection is known to cause bovine mastitis in cattle -- an inflammatory disease of the udder that costs the dairy industry millions of pounds each year," said Satoh. "New strategies to control this disease could have a huge economic impact.”

Writing in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, the researchers conclude: “The taxonomic description of Prototheca cutis sp. nov. is proposed (type strain JCM 15793T =CBS 11262T =DSM 22084T) as a pathogen of dermatitis.”