Malassezia furfur fungus is one of the common flora of the human skin. Malassezia furfur is a saprophyte, living on the dead skin cell debris.
It is further found to be an anthropophilic fungus preferably living on the human skin. Malassezia furfur is dimorphic in nature, growing and existing in mold/filamentous/hyphal form as well as yeast form. On the healthy skin this fungus is present in the yeast form. This yeast lives on the superficial layer of the skin (stratum corneum) epidermis.
Many factors like heat, humidity, suppressed immunity, immune deficiency, excessive sweating and hyper sebaceous (skin oil producing) gland activity can trigger this yeast to become a pathogen and cause tinea versicolor. It causes ugly patches of various hues on the chest and back, which are sometimes very pruritic (itchy).
Tinea versicolor infections can become chronic and recurring. Malassezia furfur normally does not affect mucous membranes, nails and hair shafts. This fungus is lipophilic (oil loving) in nature and thrives well on oily skin. This fungus hydrolyses lipids in to fatty acids, utilising them for its growth and pathogenic activity.
Amino acids asparagine and glycine were found to stimulate the growth of the yeast and hyphal formation. Malassezia furfur fungus can be grown in a medium containing olive oil. It has been isolated from some the blood cultures of neonates and persons undergoing parenteral nutrition. Malassezia furfur is also associated with dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis, folliculitis and many other infections.
In a particular incidence this fungus was found to have caused bronchopneumonia in infants in a neonatal intensive care unit leading to death of two children. In another systemic infection caused by Malassezia furfur a woman developed Malassezia furfur sepsis when total nutrition was given by parenteral supplementation. Many anti fungal medicines can be used to get rid of Malassezia furfur.