Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology IAMM  | About us |  Subscription |  e-Alerts  | Feedback |  Login   
  Print this page Email this page   Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
 Home | Ahead of Print | Current Issue | Archives | Search | Instructions  
Users Online: 224 Official Publication of Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists 
 ~ Next article
 ~ Previous article 
 ~ Table of Contents
 ~  Similar in PUBMED
 ~  Search Pubmed for
 ~  Search in Google Scholar for
 ~Related articles
 ~  Article in PDF (139 KB)
 ~  Citation Manager
 ~  Access Statistics
 ~  Reader Comments
 ~  Email Alert *
 ~  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

 ~  Abstract
 ~  Introduction
 ~  Materials and Me...
 ~  Results
 ~  Discussion
 ~  Acknowledgements
 ~  References
 ~  Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded438    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 8    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2009  |  Volume : 27  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 321-324

Distribution of Malassezia species in patients with pityriasis versicolor in Northern Iran

1 Department of Medical Mycology and Parasitology, Sari Medical School, Sari, Iran
2 Reference Mycology Laboratory , Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, Sari, Iran

Date of Submission26-Feb-2008
Date of Acceptance07-Jun-2009
Date of Web Publication4-Sep-2009

Correspondence Address:
T Shokohi
Department of Medical Mycology and Parasitology, Sari Medical School, Sari
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0255-0857.55445

Rights and Permissions

 ~ Abstract 

Purpose : Malassezia yeasts are globally distributed agents of pityriasis versicolor and are implicated in the pathogenesis of seborrhoeic and atopic dermatitis. The aim of this study is to identify the Malassezia species obtained from pityriasis versicolor patients, using morphological, biochemical, physiological as well as Polymerase Chain Reaction-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) methods. Materials and Methods: The identification of Malassezia species is performed according to microscopic features and physiological characteristics, including catalase reaction and Tween assimilation tests. The DNA is extracted from cultured Malassezia using the glass bead, phenol-chloroform method. The internal transcribed spacer 1(ITS1) region is amplified and there is restricted digestion of the PCR products with two enzymes Cfo I and Bst F5I. Results : The most commonly isolated species is M. globosa (47.6%). RFLP analysis of the PCR products of the ITS1 region is in complete agreement with those from the DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) 1 region and the biochemical tests. Conclusion : Based on the findings of this study, it can be concluded that PCR-RFLP is a relatively simple and quick method, completely comparable to the routine methods used for Malassezia identification.

Keywords: Malassezia, pityriasis versicolor, identification, Polymerase Chain Reaction-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism

How to cite this article:
Shokohi T, Afshar P, Barzgar A. Distribution of Malassezia species in patients with pityriasis versicolor in Northern Iran. Indian J Med Microbiol 2009;27:321-4

How to cite this URL:
Shokohi T, Afshar P, Barzgar A. Distribution of Malassezia species in patients with pityriasis versicolor in Northern Iran. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2009 [cited 2020 Jul 7];27:321-4. Available from:

 ~ Introduction Top

Malassezia yeasts are the causative agents of pityriasis versicolor (PV) with global distribution and are implicated in the pathogenesis of seborrhoeic and atopic dermatitis. Although the taxonomic status of the genus has been recently expanded to include eleven species, namely M. globosa, M. restricta, M. sympodialis, M. furfur, M. obtusa, M. slooffiae, M. pachydermatis, M. dermatis, M. japonica, M. nana and M. yamatoensis , their contribution to skin diseases is under investigation. [1] PV is a chronic superficial fungal disease that is characterized by the appearance of round-to-oval lesions, most commonly found on the trunk and upper aspects of the arms. These lesions vary in color, and can be hypo- or hyperpigmented. Numerous studies have shown the relationship between these species and their role as causative agents and / or triggers of diseases.

There is evidence suggesting geographical variations in the distribution of the species. As non-molecular methods are time consuming and the results are sometimes difficult to interpret, molecular typing methods have been developed to evaluate the distribution of different Malassezia subtypes within pityriasis versicolor. There are only a few reports on the molecular identification of Malassezia species in Iran, therefore, this study has been undertaken to identify the Malassezia species isolated from pityriasis versicolor patients using morphological, biochemical and physiological [2] methods in comparison with Polymerase Chain Reaction-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) methods [3]

 ~ Materials and Methods Top


A total of 81 patients clinically suspected with pityriasis versicolor, referred to the Mycology Laboratory of the Mazanadaran University of Medical Sciences were recruited. Sixty-nine patients (85.2%) were confirmed with pityriasis versicolor, based on the presence of both hyphae and spores in direct microscopy, however, the Malassezia spp were isolated from 61 patients (88.4%), who were the final enrolled subjects.

Collection and culture of sample

The samples were collected by scraping with a blunt scalpel blade. The scraped skin was inoculated in modified Leeming and Notman agar (1% w/v peptone, 1% w/v glucose, 0.2% w/v yeast extract, 0.8% desiccated ox bile, 0.1% v/v glycerol, 0.05% w/v glycerol monostearate, 0.5% v/v Tween 60, and 2% v/v oleic acid, 1% w/v agar in distilled water) supplemented with cyclohexamide (0.5%) and chloramphenicol (0.05%), as recommended by Sugita et al ., [1] and was incubated at 32˚C for two weeks. Isolated yeasts were stored at -80˚C for further analysis.

Microscopic and physiological characteristics

After one week incubation on LNA at 32°C, the yeast cells were examined morphologically by Gram staining. The catalase reaction was performed by the application of a drop of hydrogen peroxide (30% solution) onto a culture smear on a glass slide. Production of gas bubbles was considered as a positive reaction. M. restricta is the only lipid-dependant species lacking catalase. [2],[4]

Tween assimilation test

The ability to utilize individual Tween compounds (Tween 20, 40, 60 and 80) was tested according to Guillot et al . [2] and Gupta et al . [4] Briefly, the sterile sabouraud's agar (16 ml) was melted and allowed to cool to approximately 50°C . Malassezia yeast suspensions (about 10 5 cfu / ml) were mixed with sabouraud's agar, and the mixtures were plated. Five holes were made in the agar by means of a 2 mm diameter punch and filled with 5 µl Tween 20, 40, 60 and 80. The plates were incubated for one week at 32°C. Utilization of Tween was assessed by the degree of growth and /or reaction (precipitation) of the lipophilic yeasts around individual wells.

DNA extraction

Colonies of Malassezia were subcultured on LNA to obtain pure culture before DNA extraction. The DNA extraction was done using a glass bead, phenol-chloroform method. [5]

Polymerase Chain Reaction

Two primers [6] (forward, 18SF1: 5′-AGGTTTCCGTAGG TGAACCT-3′, and reverse, 5.8SR1: 5′-TTCGCTGCGTTC TTCATCGA-3′) were used to amplify the ITS1 region in the rDNA gene in all Malassezia strains. The PCR products were electrophoresed in 1.5% agarose gel and the right PCR products were sequenced. The sequences were aligned and the digestion patterns of the species were checked for the restriction enzymes using CLC Free Workbench software (version_3_0_2). Finally, the enzymes C fo I and B st F5I were selected according to Mirhendi et al . [3]


Digestion was performed by incubating 17 µl aliquot of PCR products with 10 U of the enzyme in a final reaction volume of 20 µl at 37°C for 3 h, followed by 2% agarose gel electrophoresis in a TBE buffer and staining with ethidium bromide.

 ~ Results Top

Of 81 skin scrapings, 69 (85.2%) were microscopically positive for Malassezia elements. Only 61 (88.4%) of the microscopically positive specimens yielded Malassezia in the culture. The names of the identified species of all cultured Malassezia from PV patients are listed in [Table 1], along with the body sites from where they were sampled. The most common site was the trunk (52.45%), followed by the neck (19.67%) and the face (18.03%). Chi-square analysis indicated no correlation between the species and the body sites (χ2 = 14.32 df = 12 P = 0.28).

The age of the 61 enrolled subjects (29 males (47.5%)) ranged from one to 64 years (average 20.8 years median 20-25 years). The highest prevalence of PV was observed in patients' in the 20 to 25 age group [Table 2] and [Table 3]. There was no significant difference between age and gender of patients with PV (χ2 = 29.59 df = 31 P = 0.53). Chi-square analysis indicated that isolated species of Malassezia were not associated with any age group (χ2 = 29.01 df = 27 P = 0.36). Four human-associated lipophilic Malassezia species were isolated from PV lesion scrapings, while normal animal-associated M. pachydermatitis was not obtained. Other species namely M. slooffiae and M. obtusa were not isolated from our population, although the microscopic, morphological and physiological characteristics were mainly used to identify all the strains. Molecular criteria were used to re-confirm the identification of 24 (39.3%) strains. The most common species from all body sites was M. globosa (47.6% of isolates), followed by M. furfur (41%), M. sympodialis (8.2%) and M. restricta (1.6%) with significant statistical differences (χ2 = 24.2 df = 3 P < 0.01).

RFLP analysis of PCR products of the ITS1 region with two restriction enzymes C fo I and B st F5I was undertaken on 24 out of 61 isolates. Molecular typing of clinical isolates based on the PCR-RFLP was in complete agreement with those from the DNA sequences of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) 1 region and the biochemical tests.

 ~ Discussion Top

Numerous reports have appeared after the taxonomic revisions of the genus Malassezia since 1996, in different geographical areas, including South Eastern Europe, Greece, Spain, Japan and Iran, reporting different frequencies. [7],[8],[9],[10] These studies suggest that M. globosa is the predominant species in normal and / or lesional skin. The same results were found in PV patients examined in our study . M. furfur, the second most common agent, has been isolated more frequently (41%) than by other studies in Japan, Canada, Tunisia and so on, reporting frequencies between 5-30%. [4],[8],[9],[11],[12] M. sympodialis , on the other hand, was isolated less frequently (8.2%) than by many investigators who reported it as the third species [8],[9],[12],[13] or even the first causative agent in Canada. [4]

Although M. restricta is a normal skin flora, [2],[4] its lower frequency in our study is attributable, to some extent, to its fastidious nature, as each Malassezia species has a specific ecological niche, as well as specific biochemical and genetic characteristics. Therefore, care must be taken in the interpretation of the culture-based studies. Other species, such as M. slooffiae are less common [9] or extremely rare, [8] hence the absence of this species in the PV patients of our study. M. pachydermatis was also not found in the subjects, because this species is typically associated with animals.

Nakabayashi et al . [9] indicated that the pathogenic species involved in PV is M. globosa and it is also detected in 51% of the normal subjects. They showed that PV is caused as a result of an overgrowth of this normal flora. This might be related to the clinical question of whether there is a relationship between this particular Malassezia species and various dermatological disorders, as different authors have debated whether Malassezia yeasts are of primary pathogenic significance or a secondary phenomenon. [14]

To the best of our knowledge, the differences between the studies may not only be the result of geographical variation in species prevalence, but also due to ethnic factors, sampling methods (swabbing, scraping and transparent dressing) and different culture media.

There is evidence that Malassezia species are common on non-lesional skin of patients with PV and on skin of control subjects, suggesting that the endogenous factors that promote the development of PV in susceptible hosts do not necessarily favour the growth of some species over others. [8],[9],[12]

The isolation rate of Malassezia species from PV patients was 88.4%, which was comparable to some studies, [8],[9] but higher than others. [11],[15]

The results of the PCR-RFLP analyses of clinical isolates were in complete agreement with those from DNA sequencing and biochemical tests. Alternative laboratory diagnosis, based on molecular identification of each Malassezia species by nested PCR [16] or PCR-restriction enzyme analysis, [6],[17],[18] has been employed using pure cultures, to assist and confirm the conventional laboratory diagnosis [1] of Malassezia -induced [11] or -triggered [8] dermatological conditions. Gaitanis et al . [19] and Gemmer et al . [20] identified the Malassezia species by amplifying targeted DNA extracted directly from skin scales, which could simultaneously reveal potential interactions among Malassezia or other yeast species on human skin. These new methods may resolve the disadvantages of the time-consuming morphological and biochemical techniques and the difficulties in interpretation of some physiological patterns. [12] PCR-RFLP is a sensitive and rapid identification system for Malassezia species identification. However, the technique should be developed further to allow its application in all cases and also on skin scales.

 ~ Acknowledgements Top

This study was financially supported by the Research Deputy of the Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences. We express our appreciation to Dr. Ahmadali Enayati for his expert advice and critical review of the manuscript. We also thank Prof. Alireza Khalilian for his help with the statistical analysis and Sabah Mayahi for technical assistance.

 ~ References Top

1.Sugita T, Tajima M, Takashima M, Amaya M, Saito M, Tsuboi R, et al . A new yeast, Malassezia yamatoensis , isolated from a patient with seborrheic dermatitis, and its distribution in patients and healthy subjects. Microbiol Immunol 2004;48:579-83.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Guillot J, Gueho E, Lesourd M, Midgley G, Chevrier G, Dupont B. Identification of Malassezia yeasts: A practical approach. J Mycol Med 1996;6:103-10.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Mirhendi H, Makimura K, Zomorodian K, Yamada T, Sugita T, Yamaguchi H. A simple PCR-RFLP method for identification and differentiation of 11 Malassezia species. Microbiol Meth 2004;61:281-4.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Gupta AK, Kohli Y, Faergemann J, Summerbell RC. Epidemiology of Malassezia yeasts associated with pityriasis versicolor in Ontario, Canada. Med Mycol 2001;39:199-206.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Yamada Y, Makimura K, Mirhendi H, Ueda K, Nishiyama Y, Yamaguchi H, et al . Comparison of different methods for extraction of mitochondrial DNA from human pathogenic yeasts. Jpn J Infect Dis 2002;55:122-5.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Makimura K, Tamura Y, Kudo M, Uchida K, Saito H, Yamaguchi H. Species identification and strain typing of Malassezia species stock strains and clinical isolates based on the DNA sequences of nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer 1 regions. J Med Microbiol 2000;49:29-35.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Crespo EV, Ojeda MA, Vera CA, Crespo EA, Sanchez FF. Malassezia globosa as the causative agent of pityriasis versicolor. Br J Dermatol 2000;143:799-803.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Trazooie B, Kordbacheh P, Zaini F, Zomorodian K, Saadat F, Zeraati H, et al . Study of the distribution of Malassezia species in patients with pityriasis versicolor and healthy individuals in Tehran, Iran. BMC Dermatol 2004;4:5. Available from: [last accessed on 2008 Dec 20].  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Nakabayashi A, Sei Y, Guillot J. Identification of Malassezia species isolated from patients with seborrhoeic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, pityriasis versicolor and normal subjects. Med Mycol 2000;38:337-41.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Gaitanis G, Velegraki A, Alexopoulos EC, Chaspai V, Tsigonia A, Katsahbas A. Distribution of Malassezia species in pityriasis versicolor and seborrhoeic dermatitis in Greece. Typing of the major Pityriasis Versicolor isolate M. globosa . Br J Dermatol 2006;154:854-9.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Shams M, Rassaee ML, Moosavi M, Razzaghi M. Identification of Malassezia species in patients with pityriasis versicolor submitted to the Razi Hospital in Tehran. Iran Biomed J 2001;5:121-6.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Ben Saleh S, Makni F, Marrakchi S, Sellami H, Cheikhrouhou F, Bouassida S, et al . Identification of Malassezia species from Tunisian patients with pityriasis versicolor and normal subjects. Mycoses 2004;48:242-5.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Aspiroz C, Ara M, Varea M, Rezusta A, Rubio C. Isolation of Malassezia globosa and Malassezia sympodialis from patients with pityriasis versicolor in Spain. Mycopathol 2002;154:111-7.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Midgley G, Gueho E, Guillot J. Disease caused By Malassezia species . In: Ajello J, Hay RJ, editors. Medical Mycology, Topley and Wilson′s Microbiology and Microbial infections. London, Sydney, Aucland: Arnold; 1998. p. 201-11.   Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Kindo A, Sophia SK, Kalyani J, AnandanS. Identification of Malassezia species. Indian J Med Microbio 2004;22:179-81.  Back to cited text no. 15    
16.Sugita T, Takashima M, Kodama M, Tsuboi R, Nishikawa A. Description of a new yeast species, Malassezia Japonica , and Its detection in patients with atopic dermatitis and healthy subjects. J Clin Microbiol 2003;41:4695-9.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Gupta AK, Kohli Y, Summerbell RC. Molecular differentiation of seven Malassezia species. J Clin Microbiol 2000;38:1869-75.  Back to cited text no. 17    
18.Guillot J, Deville M, Berthelemy M, Provost F, Gueho EA. Single PCR-restriction endonuclease analysis for rapid identification of Malassezia species. Lett Appl Microbiol 2000;31:400-3.  Back to cited text no. 18    
19.Gaitanis G, Velegraki A, Frangoulis E, Mitroussia A, Tsigonia A, Tzimogianni A, et al . Identification of Malassezia species from patient skin scales by PCR-RFLP. Clin Microbiol Infect 2002;8:162-73.  Back to cited text no. 19    
20.Gemmer CM, DeAngelis YM, Theelen B, Boekhout T, Dawson TL Jr. Fast, noninvasive method for molecular detection and differentiation of Malassezia yeast species on human skin and application of the method to dandruff microbiology. J Clin Microbiol 2002;40:3350-7.  Back to cited text no. 20    


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Expanding evolutionary diversity in the Ustilaginomycotina: Fereydouniaceae fam. nov. and Fereydounia gen. nov., the first urocystidalean yeast lineage
Shaghayegh Nasr,Mohammad Reza Soudi,Seyed Abolhassan Shahzadeh Fazeli,Hai D. T. Nguyen,Matthias Lutz,Marcin Piatek
Mycological Progress. 2014; 13(4): 1217
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Molecular Identification and Prevalence of Malassezia Species in Pityriasis Versicolor Patients From Kashan, Iran
Rezvan Talaee,Farzad Katiraee,Maryam Ghaderi,Mahzad Erami,Azam Kazemi Alavi,Mehdi Nazeri
Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology. 2014; 7(7)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Identification of Malassezia Species from Pityriasis Versicolor Lesions with a New Multiplex PCR Method
Emre Vuran,Aydin Karaarslan,Djursun Karasartova,Buse Turegun,Fikret Sahin
Mycopathologia. 2014; 177(1-2): 41
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Distribution of Malassezia Species in Patients with Pityriasis versicolor Compared with Healthy Individuals in Yazd, Iran
Abbas AliJafari,Hossein Zarinfar,Farzanenh Mirzaei,Farzad Katiraee
Jundishapur Journal of Microbiology. 2013; 6(7)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 Identification of Malassezia species isolated from patients with extensive forms of pityriasis versicolor in Siena, Italy
Clara Romano,Francesca Mancianti,Simona Nardoni,Gaetano Ariti,Paola Caposciutti,Michele Fimiani
Revista Iberoamericana de Micología. 2013; 30(4): 231
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Molecular Epidemiology of Malassezia globosa and Malassezia restricta in Sudanese Patients with Pityriasis Versicolor
M. Saad,T. Sugita,H. Saeed,A. Ahmed
Mycopathologia. 2013; 175(1-2): 69
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Biochemical Characterizations and Genotyping by RAPD-PCR Analyses of Malassezia spp. From Pityriasis Versicolor and Seborrhoeic Dermatitis Patients
Samaneh Eidi
Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. 2012; 14(11)
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
8 The Malassezia genus in skin and systemic diseases
Gaitanis, G., Magiatis, P., Hantschke, M., Bassukas, I.D., Velegraki, A.
Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2012; 25(1): 106-141


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article


© 2004 - Indian Journal of Medical Microbiology
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow

Online since April 2001, new site since 1st August '04