Background Dermatophytes are the main cause of onychomycoses, but various nondermatophyte filamentous fungi are often isolated from abnormal nails. The correct identification of the aetiological agent of nail infections is necessary in order to recommend appropriate treatment.
Objective To evaluate a rapid polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) assay based on 28S rDNA for fungal identification in nails on a large number of samples in comparison with cultures.
Methods Infectious fungi were analysed using PCR-RFLP in 410 nail samples in which fungal elements were observed in situ by direct mycological examination (positive samples). The results were compared with those previously obtained by culture of fungi on Sabouraud agar from the same nail samples.
Results PCR-RFLP identification of fungi in nails allowed validation of the results obtained in culture when Trichophyton spp. grew from infected samples. In addition, nondermatophyte filamentous fungi could be identified with certainty as the infectious agents in onychomycosis, and discriminated from dermatophytes as well as from transient contaminants. The specificity of the culture results relative to PCR-RFLP appeared to be 81%, 71%, 52% and 63% when Fusarium spp., Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, Aspergillus spp. and Candida spp., respectively, grew on Sabouraud agar. It was also possible to identify the infectious agent when direct nail mycological examination showed fungal elements, but negative results were obtained from fungal culture.
Conclusions Improved sensitivity for the detection of fungi in nails was obtained using the PCR-RFLP assay. Rapid and reliable molecular identification of the infectious fungus can be used routinely and presents several important advantages compared with culture in expediting the choice of appropriate antifungal therapy.