Genetic Deficiency Linked To Athlete’s Foot & Deadly Fungal Infection

Most people who come down with athlete’s foot infection simply go to the drugstore and wait a few weeks for it to clear up. However, there are some cases where the fungal infection spreads below the surface of the skin to the lymph nodes, bones, digestive tract, brain, and other skin surfaces. Though it is a relatively rare condition, researchers at The Rockefeller University and Necker Medical School in Paris have identified the genetic culprit behind this mechanism.

Gene CARD9: A Genetic Deficiency Allows Fungus To Run Rampant

Researchers looked at the genomes of 17 people with deep dermatophytosis and discovered that they all had a deficiency in the CARD9 gene. Most often, the first brush with athlete’s foot came in early childhood. Otherwise perfectly healthy people with this small defect have difficulty fighting off bacteria, viruses, and fungi. “Instead of the germs being cleared from the body, they progressively spread until, in adulthood, the infection manifested in other body regions, which proved deadly in some cases,” explained Necker senior scientist Anne Puel.

What Is The Card9 Gene?

The CARD9 gene was recently discovered to play an important role in immune system functioning — particularly against attacks by overgrown yeast colonies. CARD9 picks up signals from pattern recognition receptors to activate pro-inflammatory cytokines and mount a defense that will clear a developing infection. A recessive homozygous mutation of this gene was found to make people more susceptible to yeast infections, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Ankylosing spondylitis, and athlete’s foot.

Ok, So You’ve Got A Genetic Issue: Now What?!

The research presented in the New England Journal of Medicine is just the start of uncovering how genetics play a part in a person’s ability to overcome disease and illness. The Rockefeller University’s Jean-Laurent Casanova says it’s their hope that genetic counseling and targeted treatments will become the standard in approaching issues like recurrent athlete’s foot. Further research will be conducted on CARD9 to examine its role in signaling pathways and a person’s innate ability to fight infections in much greater depth.

recurrent athlete's foot

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Ways To Prevent Recurrent Athlete’s Foot

If you are genetically predisposed to recurrent athlete’s foot and more widespread skin infections, you will need to take additional steps to prevent future infection. It’s important to treat the signs of athlete’s foot immediately, using over-the-counter medication like Lotrimin or Lamisil. Keeping the feet dry is essential as well, so you’ll need to spend some time outside of closed shoes, wear sweat-wicking socks, and dry thoroughly between the toes after a shower. Towels and sheets will need to be handled carefully and washed with hot water and antifungal soap. Be careful not to share socks, towels or sheets with others. Some people apply antifungal powder to their footwear to discourage fungal growth, but we don’t really like the idea of caked up powder in our shoes. Instead, we recommend sanitizing shoes with the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer each day to kill up to 99.9% of the fungal spores with powerful UVC light in just 45 minutes.

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