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Mycopathologia. 2005 Sep;160(2):143-9.

Occurrence and population size of Malassezia spp. in the external ear canal of dogs and cats both healthy and with otitis.

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Dipartimento di Sanità e Benessere Animale, Facoltà di Medicina Veterinaria, Valenzano, Bari, Italy.


Malassezia yeasts are commensal organisms of human and animal skin that occasionally act as pathogens; lipid-dependent species are associated with human skin disorders. The aim of this work was to evaluate the occurrence, risk factors and population size of different species of Malassezia in the external ear canal of dogs and cats with and without otitis externa. Between 2001 and 2003, 107 healthy animals (25 cats and 82 dogs) and 123 animals with chronic otitis exteirna (48 cats and 75 dogs) were clinically examined. Sterile cotton swabs were used to collect specimens from the external ear canal and culture tests and cytological examinations were performed to detect the presence and population size of Malassezia yeasts. Malassezia yeasts were isolated from 72.9% and 40% of the cats and from 57.3% and 28.0% of the dogs, with and without otitis externa, respectively. Malassezia was frequently isolated from animals under 5 years of age. The highest prevalence of positive samples was reported in winter for cats and in autumn for dogs. Dogs with pendulous ears showed a higher incidence of infection than dogs with erect ears. More Malassezia yeasts were recovered from animals with otitis (i.e. 59.6 colony forming units - CFUs - for cats and 66.0 CFUs for dogs) than healthy animals. Out of the 413 isolates obtained from animals with and without otitis, 403 (97.6%) were identified as M. pachydermatis and 10 (2.4%) as M. globosa. A statistical evaluation of the occurrence of Malassezia yeasts in dogs and cats revealed that predisposing factors for Malassezia infections are sampling period for cats, and type of ear for dogs. The largest population of Malassezia yeasts was detected in animals with otitis, suggesting a role in the occurrence of lesions.

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