What Pathogen Causes Ringworm?


Ringworm, despite its name, is not caused by a worm but rather by a group of fungi known as dermatophytes. The most common fungi responsible for causing ringworm infections belong to three genera:

  • Trichophyton: This genus includes several species of fungi that commonly cause ringworm in humans and animals. Trichophyton rubrum and Trichophyton mentagrophytes are among the most common species associated with human ringworm infections.
  • Microsporum: Species within the Microsporum genus can also cause ringworm infections. Microsporum canis, which is typically transmitted from infected animals (such as cats and dogs) to humans, is a common cause of ringworm in children.
  • Epidermophyton: While less common, species of the Epidermophyton genus, particularly Epidermophyton floccosum, can also cause ringworm infections, primarily affecting the skin and nails.

Ringworm infections are highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals or animals, as well as indirect contact with contaminated surfaces, such as clothing, towels, or shared grooming tools. The fungi that cause ringworm thrive in warm, moist environments, making certain settings, such as locker rooms, gyms, and swimming pools, conducive to transmission.

Despite its name, ringworm infections do not involve worms. Instead, the term “ringworm” refers to the characteristic appearance of the infection, which often manifests as red, scaly patches or raised, ring-shaped lesions on the skin. Ringworm can affect various parts of the body, including the scalp (tinea capitis), body (tinea corporis), groin (tinea cruris or jock itch), feet (tinea pedis or athlete’s foot), and nails (tinea unguium or onychomycosis).

Treatment for ringworm typically involves antifungal medications, either topical or oral, depending on the severity and location of the infection. Good hygiene practices, such as keeping the affected area clean and dry, avoiding sharing personal items, and wearing protective footwear in communal areas, can help prevent the spread of ringworm infections.

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