Geotrichum: Introduction, Morphology, Pathogenicity, Lab Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention, and Keynotes


Geotrichum is a genus of fungi that belong to the family Geotrichaceae. These fungi are commonly found in various environmental settings, including soil, water, and decaying organic matter. Geotrichum species can also be found as part of the natural microbiota in humans and animals.

Geotrichum species (they) are known for their ability to produce asexual spores called conidia, which are often dispersed in the air. These spores can play a role in the spread and colonization of the fungus in different environments. They can be opportunistic pathogens, causing infections in both humans and animals. In humans, they are most commonly associated with skin and mucosal infections, particularly in individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions.

In the context of food and beverages, certain Geotrichum species are used in the fermentation process. For example, Geotrichum candidum is used in the production of certain types of cheese, where it contributes to the development of specific flavors and textures. It is responsible for the white rind on cheeses like Camembert and Brie.


Geotrichum species display distinctive morphological characteristics that help differentiate them from other types of fungi. Here are some key features of the morphology :

Geotrichum candidum colony morphology on Sabouraud dextrose agar (SDA) in clinical specimen, pus
Fig. Geotrichum candidum colony morphology on Sabouraud dextrose agar (SDA) in clinical specimen, pus
  1. Colonial Appearance: Geotrichum colonies often appear as white, creamy, or pale-colored growth on agar plates. The colonies may exhibit a velvety or cottony texture.
  2. Hyphae: The vegetative hyphae of Geotrichum are typically septate, meaning they are divided into segments by cross-walls called septa. These hyphae form the main body of the fungus and are responsible for nutrient absorption and growth.
  3. Aerial Mycelium: They can produce aerial mycelium, which is the visible portion of the fungal colony that extends above the surface of the substrate. This mycelium can contribute to the cottony appearance of the colony.
  4. Conidia: One of the distinctive features of Geotrichum is the production of asexual spores called conidia. These conidia are typically unicellular and are formed at the tips of specialized conidiophores. Conidia are often dispersed by air and can play a role in the spread of the fungus.
  5. Conidiophores: Conidiophores are specialized hyphal structures that bear the conidia. In Geotrichum, conidiophores are usually simple and unbranched, with conidia forming at their tips.
  6. Size and Shape of Conidia: The conidia of them are typically ellipsoidal, cylindrical, or lemon-shaped. They can vary in size but are generally small, measuring around 3-5 micrometers in length.
  7. Microscopic Characteristics: When observed under a microscope, the hyphae, conidiophores, and conidia of Geotrichum can be studied for their detailed morphology and arrangement.
  8. Environmental Adaptations: They are commonly found in various environmental settings, including soil, water, and decaying organic matter. Their ability to adapt to different environments and substrates contributes to their widespread distribution.


Geotrichum can exhibit both saprophytic and pathogenic behaviors, meaning they can exist as harmless environmental organisms but also have the potential to cause infections in humans and animals, particularly in certain clinical contexts. Here’s an overview of the pathogenicity of Geotrichum :

  1. Human Infections: They are considered opportunistic pathogens in humans, meaning they primarily cause infections in individuals with compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions. In healthy individuals, Geotrichum infections are relatively rare.
  2. Types of Infections: Geotrichum infections can manifest as various clinical presentations, including skin and mucosal infections. They can cause conditions like oral thrush (candidosis), skin infections, bronchopulmonary infections, and disseminated infections. The respiratory tract is often the primary site of infection, especially in individuals with pre-existing lung diseases.
  3. Risk Factors: The risk factors for Geotrichum infections include immunosuppression (e.g., due to HIV/AIDS, organ transplantation, or cancer treatment), prolonged use of antibiotics, corticosteroid therapy, and chronic lung diseases.
  4. Colonization vs. Infection: It’s important to note that they can also colonize the human body without causing disease, especially in the oral cavity and respiratory tract. Infection occurs when the balance between the immune system and the fungus is disrupted.

Lab Diagnosis

The laboratory diagnosis of Geotrichum involves a combination of techniques to isolate, identify, and characterize the fungus from clinical samples. Here’s an overview of the steps involved in diagnosing Geotrichum infections:

 Arthroconidia of Geotrichum candidum in LPCB tease mount of culture microscopy
Fig. Arthroconidia of Geotrichum candidum in LPCB tease mount of culture microscopy
  1. Clinical Sample Collection: Collecting appropriate clinical samples is the first step. Depending on the suspected site of infection, samples can include respiratory secretions (sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage), skin scrapings, swabs from mucosal surfaces, and other relevant specimens.
  2. Microscopic Examination: Microscopic examination of clinical samples is crucial for initial identification. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) wet mounts or Gram staining can be used to visualize the fungal elements. They typically show characteristic hyphal and conidial structures.
  3. Culture: Isolation of the fungus in culture is essential for accurate identification. Clinical samples are inoculated onto appropriate fungal culture media, such as Sabouraud agar or specialized media like Dixon agar. They can grow as white, cottony colonies.
  4. Colony Characteristics: The appearance of the colonies, including color, texture, and growth rate, can provide initial clues about the fungal species. Geotrichum colonies are often described as fluffy or velvety, with a white to cream color.
  5. Microscopic Examination of Cultures: Once colonies have grown, a microscopic examination of the fungal structures within the culture can confirm the presence of Geotrichum. Hyphal morphology, conidiophores, and conidia should be observed and compared to reference images.
  6. Molecular Identification: Molecular techniques, such as DNA sequencing, can provide accurate identification of the fungal species. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) assays targeting specific regions of the fungal genome can help confirm the presence of Geotrichum and differentiate it from closely related fungi.
  7. Antifungal Susceptibility Testing: In cases of confirmed Geotrichum infections, antifungal susceptibility testing may be performed to determine the most effective antifungal treatment.
  8. Clinical Correlation: Laboratory results should always be interpreted in the context of the patient’s clinical presentation, medical history, and risk factors. Not all Geotrichum isolates from clinical specimens are necessarily causing infections.


The treatment of Geotrichum infections typically involves antifungal therapy. However, the choice of antifungal agent and treatment approach may vary depending on factors such as the severity of the infection, the site of infection, the patient’s underlying health condition, and the susceptibility of the fungus to specific antifungal drugs. Here are some general considerations for treating Geotrichum infections:

  1. Antifungal Agents: Commonly used antifungal agents for treating Geotrichum infections include:
    • Amphotericin B: This is a broad-spectrum antifungal drug that can be effective against various fungal infections, including those caused by Geotrichum. It is often reserved for severe infections due to its potential for significant side effects.
    • Azoles: Azole antifungal drugs, such as fluconazole and itraconazole, are commonly used for less severe infections. They work by inhibiting the synthesis of ergosterol, a key component of fungal cell membranes.
    • Echinocandins: Echinocandin drugs, like caspofungin, target the fungal cell wall and are also used in certain fungal infections. However, they might not be the first-line choice for Geotrichum infections.
  2. Susceptibility Testing: In cases where feasible, it’s beneficial to conduct antifungal susceptibility testing to determine which antifungal agents are most effective against the specific Geotrichum isolate. This can guide the selection of the most appropriate treatment.
  3. Dose and Duration: The dosage and duration of antifungal therapy depend on the severity of the infection, the patient’s immune status, and the chosen antifungal agent. Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate treatment regimen.
  4. Combination Therapy: In some cases, combination therapy with multiple antifungal agents might be considered, especially for severe or refractory infections. However, this approach is typically reserved for complex cases and may require careful monitoring.
  5. Patient Monitoring: Patients undergoing antifungal treatment should be closely monitored for improvement in clinical symptoms, as well as for any potential side effects or adverse reactions to the medication.
  6. Underlying Conditions: Treating underlying health conditions that contribute to immunosuppression or susceptibility to fungal infections is also important. Managing conditions such as diabetes, immunodeficiencies, and lung diseases can help improve the patient’s overall health and response to treatment.


Preventing Geotrichum infections involves a combination of general hygiene practices, maintaining a healthy immune system, and minimizing exposure to risk factors that can increase the likelihood of infection. Here are some preventive measures:

  1. Good Hygiene Practices:
    • Practice proper hand hygiene by washing hands regularly with soap and water, especially after using the restroom, touching surfaces in public areas, and before eating.
    • Keep skin clean and dry, especially in areas prone to moisture accumulation, to prevent fungal overgrowth.
    • Maintain oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly, and consider using an antifungal mouthwash if you’re at risk of oral infections.
  2. Immune System Health:
    • Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support your immune system.
    • Engage in regular physical activity to boost overall health and immune function.
    • Get adequate sleep to ensure your immune system is functioning optimally.
  3. Avoid Risk Factors:
    • Minimize the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics, as these medications can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in your body and potentially lead to fungal overgrowth.
    • If you’re immunocompromised or have an underlying health condition, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage your condition and reduce the risk of infections.
    • If you smoke, consider quitting, as smoking can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections.
  4. Environmental Precautions:
    • Avoid exposure to environments that might have a higher risk of fungal contamination, such as moldy or damp areas.
    • Properly clean and disinfect surfaces, especially in shared spaces and areas prone to moisture accumulation.
  5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
    • If you work in environments where you might be exposed to fungal spores, wear appropriate protective gear, such as masks, gloves, and clothing that covers your skin.
  6. Avoiding Self-Medication:
    • If you suspect an infection or notice unusual symptoms, seek medical attention rather than attempting to self-diagnose or self-treat with over-the-counter medications.
  7. Regular Health Check-ups:
    • Regularly visit your healthcare provider for routine check-ups, especially if you have underlying health conditions that could increase your susceptibility to infections.


Here’s a summary of the key points about Geotrichum:

  1. Taxonomy and Morphology:
    • It is a genus of fungi found in various environments, including soil, water, and decaying organic matter.
    • The fungi are characterized by their septate hyphae, conidiophores, and unicellular conidia.
    • They are known for their white, cottony colonies on agar plates.
  2. Pathogenicity and Infections:
    • Geotrichum can cause opportunistic infections, especially in immunocompromised individuals or those with underlying health conditions.
    • Infections may manifest as oral thrush, skin infections, bronchopulmonary infections, and disseminated infections.
    • Respiratory tract infections are common, particularly in individuals with lung diseases.
  3. Diagnosis and Identification:
    • Diagnosis involves microscopic examination of clinical samples, including KOH wet mounts and fungal cultures.
    • Molecular techniques, such as DNA sequencing, can provide accurate species identification.
    • Differential diagnosis is important due to similarities with other fungi.
  4. Treatment:
    • Antifungal therapy is the mainstay of treatment for Geotrichum infections.
    • Antifungal agents like amphotericin B, azoles (fluconazole, itraconazole), and echinocandins might be used, depending on the severity and susceptibility.
    • Susceptibility testing guides appropriate drug selection.
  5. Prevention:
    • Prevention involves maintaining good hygiene practices, supporting a healthy immune system, and avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use.
    • Minimizing exposure to damp or moldy environments can reduce the risk of infection.
  6. Industrial Use:
    • Certain species are utilized in the food industry for their role in cheese and fermented food production.
    • Geotrichum candidum contributes to the development of white rinds on cheeses like Camembert and Brie.

Further Readings

  1. Mycology Textbooks and References:
    • “Medical Mycology: A Self-Instructional Text” by Martha E. Kern, Michael R. McGinnis, and David W. Warnock
    • “Clinical Mycology” by Elias J. Anaissie, Michael R. McGinnis, and Michael A. Pfaller
    • “Introduction to Fungi” by John Webster and Roland Weber
    • “Fundamental Medical Mycology” by Errol Reiss and Robert A. Heeren
  2. Research Journals and Articles:
    • Search for Geotrichum-related articles on databases like PubMed, Google Scholar, and other scientific databases. Look for articles that provide insights into the taxonomy, pathogenicity, diagnosis, and treatment of Geotrichum infections.
  3. Mycological Societies and Organizations:
    • The Mycological Society of America (MSA) and other regional mycological societies often provide resources, publications, and conferences related to fungal research.
  4. Online Resources:
    • Websites of reputable medical institutions, mycological societies, and universities often provide information on various fungal species, including Geotrichum.
    • Online medical databases like UpToDate can offer clinical summaries and information on various medical topics, including fungal infections.
  5. Clinical Microbiology Textbooks:
    • “Koneman’s Color Atlas and Textbook of Diagnostic Microbiology” by Gary W. Procop, Elmer W. Koneman, and Heidi L. Marsh
  6. Research Articles and Reviews:
    • Search for review articles or research papers that focus specifically on Geotrichum species, their identification, pathogenicity, and treatment options.

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