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A Micrscopic Look at Ringworm

I have a BS in Biology (psych minor) with a concentration in zoology/animal behavior. I share the fruit of my research here!

Let's learn about ringworm, a type of fungal infection.

Let's learn about ringworm, a type of fungal infection.


Ringworm is a dermatophyte, meaning a fungus that feeds on keratin: skin, hair, nails, etc. More specifically, ringworm feeds on the outer layer of skin and hair follicles and this causes the hair to become brittle and break.

Diagnosis can be made in several ways. Visually, ringworm often causes balding and ring-shaped lesions on the skin. It doesn’t always cause these effects and infections can be confused with other dermatophytes and skin conditions. Some species will fluoresce green or blue under a wood lamp, but again, not guaranteed. Another diagnostic method is culturing skin and hair from the affected area. It is cultured in dextrose agar with phenol red and kept at room temperature for 7 to 10 days. A positive culture will turn the agar red. Ringworm can be very contagious and could spread to others in the time it takes for a positive culture. Ringworm can also be diagnosed by looking at a sample under a light microscope. This is the fastest, most reliable method. Some species of ringworm are species-specific, whereas others are zoonotic. The three most common are :

  • Trichophyton mentogrophytes (most common in humans),
  • Microsporum canis (most common in cats and dogs), and
  • Microsporum gypseum.

These are all zoonotic.

Species are identified by the shape and number of cells in the macroconidium, a large spore that is produced through vegetative reproduction. They grow on specialized hyphae until they mature.

Methods and Procedure

All slides were prepared with a coverslip and sealed with clear nail polish. The accepted method for collecting spores is to take a piece of cellophane tape and lightly graze it over the culture. The tape is then placed on a slide with any stain that will be used. I placed the tape on the coverslip so I wouldn’t have to try to focus through the tape. I wanted to compare this with taking whole sections. I obtained sections by scraping cultures with a needle. I then scrambled the needle in a drop of stain or millipore water and applied the coverslip. I also wanted to experiment with different stains. I compared Lactophenol cotton blue, which is a stain used with light microscopy

· Calcoflour

· Calcoflour and KOH

· KOH is used with cotton blue to help the stain adhere better to the membranes

I also compared these to spores without stain and auto-fluorescence only. I first looked at a slide prepared with a tape sample with lactophenol cotton blue. This did not fluoresce at all, so I did not go any further with it, such as adding KOH. This is similar to what spores would look like under a light microscope, only with lactophenol, it would appear blue.



Doreen SUSANNO on September 10, 2019:

Hi,im trying to ease my girlfriens mind,and show her that ring worms arw a fungal PARASITE,A WORM!! SHE DOES"NT WANT TO BELIEVE ME ,HOPE SHE DOES NOW SINCE I SENT HER YOUE MICROSCOPE PICS OF THE WORMS. THANKS

Anonymous on February 26, 2013:

I am into fungi and I have a microscope and I happen to have come down with ringworm. Exciting, I know. But I can't seem to locate any spores on tape from my skin. How are spores collected for culture?