CNHI News Service —
It may be surprising for some to learn that the skin infection known as ringworm, or dermatophytosis, is not actually a worm or parasite at all, but a fungus.
The lesion will not always be in the shape of a ring, but it will appear scaly in the center with a red irritated color on the periphery.
“Household pets generally pick up the disease from other animals. Where the infection occurs on the skin there will be a bald patch, but sometimes they may just have a few broken hairs,” says Dr. Leon Russell, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Ringworm is highly contagious and can pass from person to person either through direct contact, through contact with an infected object, contact with an infected pet or infected soil.
Humans can contract ringworm from animals very easily by touching the infected area directly or through contact with objects which have been exposed contaminated with the fungus or its spores.
Animal ringworm types, usually from a dog, cat, or rodent are more likely to be transmitted to young children. With children it is often found in the scalp region.
“Fungi that mostly live in human skin are called ‘anthropophilic’, those that live on animals are called ‘zoophilic’, and those that prefer to live in soil are called ‘geophilic’ fungi,” explains Russell.
The anthropophilic ringworm is mostly seen in developing countries such as Africa, or parts of Asia by human to human transmission. Many times this occurs from sharing hairbrushes or combs, and unless someone’s immune system is highly compromised then the disease is not life threatening.
“Tinea pedis, or athlete's foot, is the most common form of ringworm found in humans and the most difficult to treat. The rash most often appears in the moist areas between the toes, though the rest of the foot can be infected as well. Itching and burning are typical symptoms,” says Russell.