Battle against fungi RYSA: Au-Yeung Betty, Lai Alan, Lam Athene

Tinea Pedis

Tinea pedis, as known as Athlete's Foot or Hong Kong foot, is a fungal skin infection of the feet causing symptoms such as cracking skin, pain or itch. It may also be spread to different areas of human bodies such as the nails, hands and groin area. It is one of the most prevalent disease in warm and humid climates such as Hong Kong, where it is estimated to be present in 40% of all patients attending clinics. It is caused by different dermatophytes, especially the Trichophyton species such as Trichophyton rubrum.

Pictures of Feet Infected with Tinea Pedis

There are many anti-fungal medications available for sale, yet most of them incur severe side effects such as fever, nausea and diarrhoea. Hence, it is our sincere wish to find organic alternatives to replace chemical medications for treating Tinea pedis and related fungal infections, as we believe that some compounds in plants can inhibit or slow down the growth of fungi. Furthermore, we aim at finding common and cheap plants to help patients suffering from Tinea pedis to recover quickly without a huge burden caused by medical care. Here we will introduce our project Battle Against Fungi to you all, where we have investigated on the ability of different plant extracts to inhibit the growth of fungi.

Experimental procedues

GENERAL methodology

  1. A potato dextrose agar (PDA) was prepared and inoculated with fungi from patients of Tinea Pedis after receiving the patients' consent
  2. 7.5 g plant was measured using an electronic balance, and mortar and pestle were used to extract the plant solution with the addition of 25 mL deionised water measured with a measuring cylinder
  3. A filter paper disc was placed in the plant solution and placed on the agar plate inoculated with fungi
  4. Steps 2 and 3 was repeated with all plant extracts, with at most 6 filter paper discs in each agar plate
  5. The agar plate was placed under room condition for 7 days
First Day of Experiment 1

Phase 1: types of plants

We have tested 11 plants that are able to alleviate symptoms of tinea pedis according to the internet, namely tealeaves, aloe vera, pineapple, pineapple leaves, ginger, tujinpi, soya bean, maize, garlic, papaya and mushroom, using the above-mentioned method, together with a filter paper disc soaked with distilled water as a control set-up for comparison. The filter paper discs with relatively clear zones around the discs are considered to be more able to inhibit the growth of fungi, measured by the size of cleared zones.

Phase 1 Experiment 1: Types of Plants

In the preliminary round, we have identified tea, ginger, soya bean, maize and garlic as more able to inhibit fungal growth; however, due to the vast amount of contamination, we have repeated the experiment with the above 5 plant extracts and deionised water on a new agar to confirm the results. The significant difference between the size of cleared zones indicate that tea is more able to inhibit the growth of fungi, which also forms a stark contrast with the growth of fungi around the filter paper disc with water. We have also discovered not all plants that claim to be antifungal are helping with fungal inhibition.

Phase 1 Experiment 2: Types of Plants

phase 2: Common antifungal medicine

Following the result which suggests tea is able to inhibit growth of fungi, we have implemented the second phase to compare the effect of tea and a common medication Lamisil (terbinafine). The clarity of the area surrounding the filter paper discs reveal the comparable effect of tea and Lamisil in inhibiting growth of fungi, reinforcing our experimental result in phase 1 that tea is able to prevent spread of fungi.

Phase 2: Common Antifungal Medicine

phase 3: types of tealeaves

As we have noticed tea's ability to inhibit growth of fungi, we have tested 5 different types of common tealeaves, namely rose pu'erh tea (used in phases 1 and 2), pu-erh tea, jasmine tea, oolong tea and green tea, in an attempt to find out the most effective type of tea that can inhibit the growth of fungi.

Similarly, we have obtained the results that rose pu'erh tea is the best at preventing growth of fungi, as the cleared zone around it is significantly larger than the others, followed by jasmine tea.

Phase 3: Types of Tealeaves

Phase 4: antioxidants (hypothesis 1)

In order to explain tea's inhibition of growth of fungi, we looked into the chemical composition of tea. The remarkable amount of antioxidants such as catechin made us propose that the prevention of fungal growth is caused inhibition of oxidation, hence we have performed our next experiment regarding different antioxidants -- tea, blueberry, grape, cilantro, black bean, black bean skin and bok choy.

It is evident that most antioxidants are unable to inhibit fungal growth, except tea, causing the rejection of our first hypothesis that antioxidants such as catechin are responsible for the inhibition.

Phase 4: Antioxidants (Hypothesis 1)

phase 5: scented tea (hypothesis 2)

Since most types of tea are unable to inhibit fungal growth while rose pu'erh and jasmine tea are better at preventing spread of fungi, we have proposed our second hypothesis that scented tea are able to inhibit growth of fungi due to its fragrance. From the agar, we observe the introduction of new substances (unidentified), as observed in the filter paper disc soaked with rose tea, despite their ability to slow growth of fungi. Therefore, we conclude that scented tea work to an extent, yet we suggest that rose pu'erh or jasmine tea are better choices.

Phase 5: Scented Tea (Hypothesis 2)

phase 6: Ratio of rose and pu'erh

In order to facilitate the application of our experimental results, we have tested the effectiveness of rose pu'erh tea with different composition of rose and pu'erh. We have tested 1:1, 1:4, 2:3, 3:2, 4:1 (rose:pu'erh) in the experiment, and identified that the ratio do not make a huge difference between 2:3, 1:1 and 3:2, hence we propose that comparable amounts of rose and pu'erh should be used.

Phase 6: Ratio of Rose and Pu'erh


  1. Spray bottles with ethanol to increase volatility
  2. Lavipeditum (foot bath)
  3. Insole of shoes as a preventive measure

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