SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand



  • text new page (beta)
  • English (pdf)
  • Article in xml format
  • How to cite this article
  • SciELO Analytics
  • Curriculum ScienTI
  • Automatic translation


Related links


Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo

Print version ISSN 0036-4665On-line version ISSN 1678-9946

Rev. Inst. Med. trop. S. Paulo vol.57 no.5 São Paulo Sept./Oct. 2015 

Letter To The Editor


Maria do Desterro Soares Brandão NASCIMENTO1  5 

Valéria Maria Sousa LEITÃO2 

Marcos Antonio Custódio Neto da SILVA3 

Anna Cyntia Brandão NASCIMENTO4 

Geusa Felipa de Barros BEZERRA1 

Graça Maria de Castro VIANA1 

(1)Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Departamento de Patologia, São Luís, Maranhão, Brasil. E-mails:;;

(2)Universidade de São Paulo, Depto. Ginecologia, São Paulo, SP, Brasil. E-mail:

(3)Universidade Federal do Maranhão, São Luís, Maranhão, Brasil. E-mail:

(4)Universidade Federal do Maranhão, Hospital Universitário. E-mail:

(5)Universidade Estadual do Maranhão, Centro de Estudos Superiores de Caxias.

Dear Sir,

The babaçu coconut breakers are often affected by diseases that seem having obvious relationship between their type of occupation and development of fungal infection2,4.

We studied human mycoses in conjunctiva, nails (onycholytic lesions) and skin lesions in 100 babaçu coconut breakers of Esperantinópolis, Maranhão (Fig. 1), and studied the ground near the babaçu palms, coconut shells and palm leaves (Fig. 2), for taxonomic classification of fungi by direct mycological and microscopic examination. We also performed direct examination with KOH for human mycoses. After the growth of colonies, these were analyzed by light microscopy using blue lactophenol dye. Colonies of interest were subcultured in tubes of 16 x 150, containing Sabouraud agar medium and subsequently was prepared microcultivation for taxonomic identification. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee in Research of the University Hospital of UFMA.

Fig. 1 - Coconut breaker from Esperantinópolis, Maranhão (MA), Brazil. 

Fig. 2 - Babaçu palm coconut (leaf, bark and soil). 

Of the 20 samples taken from the soil, we obtained 13 isolates of fungi, whose macro and micromorphological characteristics of the colonies allowed the diagnosis of Aspergillus niger, Penicillium sp., and Scedosporium sp., besides others, Fusarium sp. not being found. In coconut shells Aspergillus niger and Penicillium sp. were found; in almond coconut, Aspergillus niger, A. versicolor, A. flavus, and Penicillium sp. were obtained. On palm leaves we identified Aspergillus niger and Penicillium sp. (Table 1). Twenty-five nail samples that showed suggestive alterations of onycholytic lesions1(Fig. 3) were harvested; eleven positive cultures for yeast, Neosartorya spinosa, and Trichophyton sp. Rhizopus sp. and Curvularia sp. (Fig. 4) were isolated. Seventy-two fungal isolates were obtained from the conjunctiva, the most common were filamentous fungi from 58 (80.57%) breakers and 14 samples (19.43%) were found corresponding to Candida sp., and the Fusarium spp. occurred in only one sample (Fig. 5andTable 2)3.

Fig. 3 - Onycholytic lesions in a babaçu coconut breaker. 

Fig. 4 - Curvularia sp. isolated from samples of nails from babaçu coconut breakers. 

Fig. 5 - Fusarium sp. isolated from the conjunctiva of babaçu coconut breakers. 

Table 1 Distribution and taxonomic classification of fungi isolated from soil near the babaçu palms, babaçu coconut shells, babaçu leaves cachopa and babaçu palm concavity 

Variables n %
Fungi Isolation from Soil
Aspergillus niger 7 53.8
Aspergillus nidulans 1 7.7
Penicillium sp. 2 15.4
Scedosporium sp. 2 15.4
Syncephalastrum sp. 1 7.7
Fungi Isolation from coconut shell
Aspergillus niger 2 50.0
Penicillium sp. 2 50.0
Fungi isolation from coconut
Aspergillus niger 8 66.7
Aspergillus versicolor 2 16.7
Aspergillus flavus 1 8.3
Penicillium sp. 1 8.3
Fungi isolation from palm leaf
Aspergillus niger 6 85.7
Penicillium sp. 1 14.3

Table 2 Distribution and taxonomic classification of fungi isolated from the nail and ocular conjunctiva of babaçu coconut breakers 

Variables n %
Fungi isolation from nails
Yeasts 4 36.4
Neosartorya spinosa 2 18.2
Tricophyton sp. 2 18.2
Rhizopus sp. 2 18.2
Curvularia sp. 1 9.0
Fungi isolation from ocular conjunctiva
Aspergillus sp. 24 33.33
Aspergillus niger 11 15.27
Candida sp. 11 15.27
Penicillium 07 9.72
Syncephalastrum sp. 03 4.16
Nigrospora sp. 03 4.16
Malassezia sp. 03 4.16
Sporothrix sp. 02 2.77
Cladosporium sp. 02 2.77
Aspergillus versicolor 01 1.38
Aspergillus flavus 01 1.38
Aspergillus nidulans 01 1.38
Cladophialophora sp. 01 1.38
Trichophyton sp. 01 1.38
Fusarium sp. 01 1.38

All individuals involved in this study were babaçu coconut breakers. There was a greater isolation of fungi in the study group compared to the control group (Table 3). Regarding the fungi isolated from the conjunctiva, there was agreement with the literature. The treatment used in most cases was drops based on topical antibiotics and corticosteroids, which may predispose to further infection3.

Table 3 Frequency of fungal isolates in a sample from ocular conjunctiva and its relationship to the activity performed 

Professional Activity Fungi
Yeast Penicillium sp Other Fungi Total
F % F % F % F %
Coconut breakers 11 15.27 7 9.72 54 75 72 100
Control group 8 66.7 1 8.3 3 25 12 100

X2= 15.819; p = 0.0004; Degrees of Freedom = 2.

The lack of knowledge on Fusarium in soil, palm bark, almond, palm leaves, and babaçu coconuts, albeit in a preliminary way, has established a plant model for studies of biological control of Fusarium sp. However, in the onycholytic lesions we found the genres Neosartorya spinosa, Rhizopus sp., and Curvularia sp. showing that other emerging and opportunistic filamentous fungi may be isolated. The fungi found in this study were present in the environment. As the coconut breakers suffer constant injuries resulting from their work, the fungi penetrate by percutaneous inoculation1.

In conclusion, exposure to geophilic fungi and fitopathogens linked to the work of babaçu coconuts extraction has been recorded as mycoses which require clinical and laboratory diagnosis that will result in preventive measures, thus justifying the economic and social importance of this work activity.


. Araújo AJG, Bastos OMP, Souza MAJ, Oliveira JC. Onicomicoses por fungos emergentes: análise clínica, diagnóstico laboratorial e revisão. An Bras Dermatol. 2003;78:445-55. [ Links ]

. Bueno CJ, Ambrósio MMQ, Souza NL. Produção e avaliação da sobrevivência de estruturas de resistência de fungos fitopatogênicos habitantes do solo. Summa Phytopathol. 2007;33:47-55. [ Links ]

. Höfling-Lima AL, Forseto A, Duprat JP, Andrade A, Souza LB, Godoy P, et al. Estudo laboratorial das micoses oculares e fatores associados às ceratites. Arq Bras Oftalmol. 2005;68:21-7. [ Links ]

. Santos AF, Bezerra JL, Tessmann DJ, Poltronieri LS. Ocorrência de Curvularia senegalensis em pupunheira e palmeira real no Brasil. Fitopatol Bras. 2003;28:204. [ Links ]

Supported by: Foundation for Research and Scientific and Technological Development of the

State of Maranhão (FAPEMA). Notice PPSUS 2004 Process No. 4.01-1408-05

Correspondence to: Profª. Drª. Maria do Desterro Soares Brandão Nascimento. Depto de Patologia/NIBA/UFMA. Av. dos Portugueses 1966, Prédio do CCBS, Bloco 3, Sala 3A, Núcleo de Imunologia, Cidade Universitária do Bacanga, Universidade Federal do Maranhão. 65080-040 São Luís, MA, Brasil. Tel.: +55 98 3272 8535; Fax: +55 98 3272-8535. E-mail:

Creative Commons License This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License