Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Malassezia yeasts; Non-Candida yeast; oval pityrosporon; Pityrosporon orbiculare; Pityrosporum

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The genus was first described in 1889 by Henri Ernest Baillon. The name "Malassezia" refers to Louis-Charles Malassez.

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A lipophilic yeast fungus which is difficult to cultivate and only develops in a medium enriched with oil, glycerol or glycerol monostearate. The genus Malassezia includes species whose natural habitat is the skin of humans and other warm-blooded animals. Malassezia species have been associated with a variety of dermatological and even systemic diseases. Pityriasis versicolor is the only skin disease besides Malassezia folliculitis for which Malassezia is clearly considered to be etiologically causative. Malassezia may play a pathogenic role in other dermatoses as e.g. seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. There is no indication that the organisms invade the skin.

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Mlassezia occurs mainly as commensals on skin rich in sebaceous glands. Due to the different morphology of this yeast, Pityrosporum ovale, Pityrosporum orbiculare and Malassezia were until recently considered as three different organisms.

Pityrosporum refers to the mycelium-forming form of Malassezia furfur, formerly described as the causative agent of pityriasis versicolor. In the meantime, larger studies have shown that >90% of Malassezia globosa is the causative pathogen of pityriasis versicolor. As with the Candida species, a transition from the yeast phase to the mycelium-forming phase can be observed in Malassezia species.

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The genome of Malassezia globosa has now been decoded. This organism is extremely efficient, producing more than 50 enzymes, including 14 lipases. A fatty acid synthetase is missing, which makes the yeast fungus dependent on a lipid source. The lipophilic yeasts cleave the triglycerides in the sebum into glycerol and free fatty acids. The saturated fatty acids are metabolized by Malassezia while the unsaturated ones penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin where they cause irritation. The consequence is an increased cell proliferation with macroscopically visible scales.

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  1. Cafarchia C et al (2015) Azole susceptibility of Malassezia pachydermatis and Malassezia furfur and tentative epidemiological cut-off values. Med Mycol 53:743-748.
  2. Lin SY et al (2019) The epidemiology of non-Candida yeast isolated from blood: The Asia Surveillance Study. Mycoses 62:112-120.
  3. Prohic A det al.(2016) Malassezia species in healthy skin and in dermatological conditions.
    Int J Dermatol 55:494-504.


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Last updated on: 29.10.2020