anti-fungal creams: how do they work?

I’m referring primarily to the athlete’s foot creams you see in the store – Lotrimin, et. al. How exactly do these things work? They all seem to require you to use them twice-daily for four weeks. Why so long? Do they have a cumulative effect, or what? If there’s something in them that’s toxic to fungi, why doesn’t it kill all the fungi off the first time you apply it?

There are products (like sulphuric acid) which would do just that but people generally prefer not to use them and use milder things instead.

Most of the topical antifungals work by inhibiting the synthesis of a chemical called ergosterol that fungi need for their cell membranes. If you interfere with the synthesis of their membranes they won’t die right away, just like a person wouldn’t immediately drop dead if you stopped them from making new skin cells. It takes a while.

The reason we kill fungi with something that acts that slowly is that they’re fairly similar to us biochemically (compared to bacteria), so there aren’t that many biochemical targets for us to attack in fungi. Ergosterol is one example of a substance they need to make that we don’t.

My vague recollection is that any antifungal agent that ends with -zole is of a type that eats the outer membrane of the fungi cells, causing them to burst and die.

My guess is that the concentration of these substances must be low in order for the active ingredient to target the fugus instead of the skin, which might explain why you apply often for a long time. But that’s just a guess until someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about comes along.

Well, now, how did Bob sneak in there fifteen minutes ahead of me with a helpful answer? Please ignore my ill-informed musings.

This is a bit off-topic, but since we’re talking about foot fungi anyway…

In Dallas there is a radio and newspaper gardening expert named Howard Garrett who advocates total organic gardening. I’ve been using his recommendations for about two years and I’ve had great results. One thing he recommends is using cornmeal to stop fungal disease in plants. In Dallas, we have a problem with white powdery fungus on crape myrtle trees, so I tried the cornmeal remedy and it worked – at least on my trees.

So anyway, some of his listeners recommended using cornmeal to cure foot and toenail fungus. I don’t have these problems, so I can’t try it. My father-in-law does have these problems, but I haven’t been able to talk him into trying it.

I was wondering if any straight-dopers would give it a shot. Just get regular cornmeal at the grocery store, put enough in a pan to cover the bottom, fill with warm water and soak your feet for about half an hour. Try it for about two weeks. I would really like to read some anecdotal evidence of whether it works or not.

It’s cheap and soaking your feet feels pretty good to boot.

Good Lord, this is the longest post I’ve ever made.

Try Lamaisil. While the other ones require 4 weeks of treatment, Lamisil works in about 1 week. My experience is with a fungal infection which wasn’t atheletes foot. The other ones are so slow that I got discouraged. Also, you might try tea tree oil which works for fungus as well.

Most antibiotics work this way. The drugs don’t directly kill the bacteria (i.e. they are not bacteriocidal) they simply slow the replication of bacteria (i.e. they are bacteriostatic). By slowing them down, you allow the immune system to catch up and get rid of these baddies. Apparently, it’s better to get the host defenses involved in the killin’

Oliver, I’d be happy to attempt it but I’m already trying out Lamasil. If it fails I’ll shoot for anything.