Biodiversity of mycobial communities in health and onychomycosis

Title of publication: 

Biodiversity of mycobial communities in health and onychomycosis


Michael Olbrich,# Anna Lara Ernst,# Foteini Beltsiou, Katja Bieber, Sascha Ständer, Melanie Harder, Waltraud Anemüller, Birgit Köhler, Detlef Zillikens, Hauke Busch, Axel Künstner and Ralf J. Ludwig

Year of Publication: 

2022, May 25

medium resp. publishing house / place: 

Sci Rep.

edition / issue: 




related to project: 

Onychomycosis (OM) is a common fungal nail infection. Based on the rich mycobial diversity in healthy toenails, we speculated that this is lost in OM due to the predominance of a single pathogen. We used next generation sequencing to obtain insights into the biodiversity of fungal communities in both healthy individuals and OM patients. By sequencing, a total of 338 operational-taxonomic units were found in OM patients and healthy controls. Interestingly, a classifier distinguished three distinct subsets: healthy controls and two groups within OM patients with either a low or high abundance of Trichophyton. Diversity per sample was decreased in controls compared to cases with low Trichophyton abundance (LTA), while cases with a high Trichophyton abundance (HTA) showed a lower diversity. Variation of mycobial communities between the samples showed shifts in the community structure between cases and controls—mainly driven by HTA cases. Indeed, LTA cases had a fungal β-diversity undistinguishable from that of healthy controls. Collectively, our data provides an in-depth characterization of fungal diversity in health and OM. Our findings also suggest that onychomycosis develops either through pathogen-driven mechanisms, i.e., in HTA cases, or through host and/or environmental factors, i.e., in cases with a low Trichophyton abundance.