• Quantitative cultures in 140 cases of interdigital "athlete's foot" established the following clinical-microbiological correlations. In 39 cases of mild, scaling, relatively asymptomatic variety, fungi were recovered in 84% of cases. As the disease progressed to maceration, hyperkeratosis, and increased symptoms, recovery of fungi fell to 55% in moderately symptomatic and to 36% in severe cases. Symptomatic cases had increasing numbers of resident aerobic organisms, particularly large colony diphtheroids, Experimental manipulations of the interspace microflora in volunteers, monitored with quantitative cultures, demonstrated that symptomatic, macerated, hyperkeratotic process results from an overgrowth of resident organisms if the stratum corneum barrier is damaged by preexisting fungi, while overgrowth of the same organisms in normal, fungus-free interspaces does not produce lesions. These experiments support the conclusion that athlete's foot represents a continuum from a relatively asymptomatic, scaling eruption produced by fungi to a symptomatic, macerated, hyperkeratotic variety that is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria.
(Arch Dermatol 114:1466-1472, 1978)