Onychomycosis Caused by Malassezia pachydermatis in a Dog
Background: Malassezia species are commensal skin organisms of warm-blooded vertebrates that can act as opportunistic pathogens. Malassezia pachydermatis is of importance in both veterinary and human medicine. Recognised initially as causes of infection of the skin, they are now known to be superficial commensals as well as potential causes of infections in domestic animals and more serious human conditions such as fungemia. They have also been implicated in the pathogenesis of allergic and other inflammatory diseases. Onychomycosis is defined as fungal infection of the claw (nail disease) caused by dermatophytes (Microsporum and Trichophyton genus), non-dermatophyte molds (hyaline and dematiaceous) and/or yeasts. The objective of this work was to report a case of canine onychomycosis by Malassezia pachydermatis based on reference standard diagnostics of this pathology.
Case: A 9-year-old male West Highland White Terrier presented history of claw abnormality: brown staining and partly brittle. The dog has no apparent history of trauma on the affected claw and no skin disease was reported. Direct examination of claw was performed using the tape strip technique revealed Malassezia organisms. Nail fragments were cultured onto Sabouraud Dextrose Agar with Chloramphenicol and Cycloheximide. After 10 days of incubation (32ºC) nail fragments allowed the isolation of pure colonies of Malassezia pachydermatis. The histopathological evaluation was performed by Sector of Veterinary Clinical Pathology, Faculdade de Veterinária (FAVET/UFRGS) and fungal infection due to Malassezia pachydermatis was confirmed by histopathologic examination (Hematoxylin and eosin and Grocott’s methenamine silver stain) of the nail, that revealed abundant yeasts (blastoconidia).
Discussion: Fungal infection of the skin, hair and nails are common and are primary caused by the dermatophyte molds. Non-dermatophyte molds isolated from nails constitute a long list, but only a few species cause onychomycoses. These include Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, Fusarium sp., Acremonium spp., Aspergillus spp., Penicillium spp. Yeasts like Malassezia and Candida spp. are saprophytes and usually represent incidental contaminants associated with a non-sterile specimen at mycological culture, however in some cases they may parasite the nails and become an etiological agent of the disease. M. pachydermatis, normally present on the skin and in the ear canal of dogs and cats, can act as opportunistic pathogenic microbe and frequently causes dermatitis and otitis in mammals. In the case of onychomycosis, there is little evidence that Malassezia yeasts are implicated in nail plate invasion, although this may be a rare occurrence. All species of the genus are obligatory lipid-dependent forms, with the exception of M. pachydermatis, as well as absence of keratinolytic ability. Malassezia organisms were commonly retrieved from the subungual claw fold region of normal healthy dogs (should be considered resident microflora of the normal canine claw fold). Some authors suggests that high numbers of yeast can be detected on cytological evaluation of the skin surface of the canine claw fold from allergic dogs in both the absence and presence of concurrent signs of pruritus and paronychia.
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