Eumycetoma is a traumatic fungal infection in tropical and subtropical areas that may lead to severe disability. Madurella mycetomatis is one of the prevalent etiologic agents in arid Northeastern Africa. The source of infection has not been clarified. Subcutaneous inoculation from plant thorns has been hypothesized, but attempts to detect the fungus in relevant material have remained unsuccessful. The present study aims to find clues to reveal the natural habitat of Madurella species using a phylogenetic approach, i.e. by comparison of neighboring taxa with known ecology. Four species of Madurella were included in a large data set of species of Chaetomium, Chaetomidium, Thielavia, and Papulaspora (n = 128) using sequences of the universal fungal barcode gene rDNA ITS and the partial LSU gene sequence. Our study demonstrates that Madurella species are nested within the Chaetomiaceae, a family of fungi that mainly inhabit animal dung, enriched soil, and indoor environments. We hypothesize that cattle dung, ubiquitously present in rural East Africa, plays a significant role in the ecology of Madurella. If cow dung is an essential factor in inoculation by Madurella, preventative measures may involve the use of appropriate footwear in addition to restructuring of villages to reduce the frequency of contact with etiologic agents of mycetoma. On the other hand, the Chaetomiaceae possess a hidden clinical potential which needs to be explored.
de Hoog, G. S., Ahmed, S. A., Najafzadeh, M. J., Sutton, D. A., Saradeghi Keisari, M., Fahal, A. H., Eberhardt, U., Verkley, G. J. M., Xin, L., Stielow, B., & van de Sande, W. W. J. (2013). Phylogenetic findings suggest possible new habitat and routes of infection of human eumyctoma. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 7(5), 2229. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0002229