High prevalence of mixed infections in global onychomycosis

Aditya K. Gupta*, Valeria B.A. Taborda, Paulo R.O. Taborda, Avner Shemer, Richard C. Summerbell, Kerry Ann Nakrieko

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Onychomycosis is estimated at a prevalence of 10% worldwide with the infecting organism most commonly Trichophyton rubrum (T. rubrum). Traditional culture identification of causative organisms has inherent risks of overestimating dermatophytes, like T. rubrum, by inhibiting the growth of possible nondermatophyte mould (NDM) environmental contaminants which could be causative agents. Recently, molecular methods have revealed that a proportion of onychomycosis cases in North America may be caused by mixed infections of T. rubrum as an agent co-infecting with one or more NDM. Determining the global burden of mixed infections is a necessary step to evaluating the best therapies for this difficult-to-treat disease. To determine the prevalence of mixed infections in a global population, nail samples from onychomycosis patients in Brazil, Canada, and Israel (n = 216) were analyzed by molecular methods for the presence of dermatophytes and five NDMs. If an NDM was detected, repeat sampling was performed to confirm the NDM. T. rubrum was detected in 98% (211/216) of infections with 39% mixed (84/216). The infection type was more likely to be mixed in samples from Brazil, but more likely to be a dermatophyte in samples from Canada and Israel (Χ2 = 16.92, df = 2, P<0.001). The most common cause of onychomycosis was T. rubrum. In all countries (Brazil, Canada and Israel combined) the prevalence of dermatophyte (Χ2 = 211.15, df = 3, P<0.001) and mixed (dermatophyte and NDM; Χ2 = 166.38, df = 3, P<0.001) infection increased with patient age. Our data suggest that mixed infection onychomycosis is more prevalent than previously reported with the aging population being at increased risk for mixed infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0239648
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9 September
StatePublished - Sep 2020


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