Dermatophytosis is a common contagious disease caused by fungi known as dermatophytes. Dermatophytes belong to a group of organisms that are able to break down the keratin in tissues such as the epidermis, hair, nails, feathers, horns and hooves. Most of these fungi reside in the soil and are involved in decomposition; however, the dermatophytes can infect living hosts. Some dermatophytes (anthropophilic species) are adapted to humans, and are usually transmitted from person to person. Others (zoophilic species) are adapted to animals. A few (geophilic) species normally live in the environment, but occasionally act as parasites. The zoophilic and geophilic species are sometimes transmitted from animals to people. It is also possible for humans to transmit anthropophilic dermatophytes to animals, although this seems to be uncommon.
In living hosts, dermatophytes usually remain in superficial tissues such as the epidermis, hair and nails. Serious consequences are uncommon and infections can be self-limiting. However, the illness may be disfiguring and uncomfortable, especially when the lesions are widespread. Economic effects, such as damage to hides, are also important in livestock. Infrequently, dermatophytes may invade subcutaneous tissues and (very rarely) other sites, especially in immunocompromised hosts.
Iowa State University
Iowa State University Center for Food Security and Public Health, "Dermatophytosis" (2013). Center for Food Security and Public Health Technical Factsheets. 47.