The fungal disease ringworm (dermatophytosis) is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread not only from pet to pet, but from pets to people. A ringworm infection is no fun. Treatment is involved: Clipping the cat’s hair coat, medicated baths, oral medications, and treating the environment until the infection is controlled. It’s a lot of work, and having a cat that is prone to ringworm can be stressful.
Researchers from Texas A&M University decided to look for a genetic locus or marker related to severe skin fungal infections in Persian cats. They analyzed DNA from 34 Persian cats and found a difference in those with severe fungal disease. The region of DNA they looked at contains a cluster of genes called S100 genes. S100 genes allow for the creation of S100 proteins that have been shown to exhibit antifungal properties in other species and are present in feline skin. A genetic test could aid breeders in reducing the number of cats with this mutation. It could also help shelters and rescue groups when placing Persians to alert new owners to the need to be aware of this propensity.
A second goal of the study was to look at the fungal mycobiome (population of fungi) of Persian cats (both healthy and those with ringworm) and compare it to healthy longhair cats of other breeds or mixes. The study did not detect any asymptomatic Persian carriers. They also found no difference in the mycobiomes of healthy Persian cats and healthy domestic longhair cats. Normal beneficial fungal colonies did not appear to protect cats against infection with pathogenic fungi. Further studies will evaluate whether normal skin bacteria help to control fungal infections.n