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Researchers working for the maker of Head and Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo have mapped out the genome of the microbe that causes the pesky condition.

The news is being hailed as a breakthrough that could put millions of snowy-shouldered people out of their misery, according to a report in The Sunday Times newspaper.

Dandruff is caused by the fungus Malassezia globosa which feeds on human skin, leaving behind flakes of dead skin and causing itching. It was discovered by, and named for, the French scientist Malassez, who was working in the late 19th century.

Now the team at Procter and Gamble has unravelled the fungus' genetic code. They say the information in the genome should provide new approaches to tackling the fungus' growth on humans.

"This research may well lead to an understanding of the conditions that lead to skin disease and treatment paradigms to alleviate the major impact that Malassezia species have on human and animal health," the scientists write in a paper due to be published today. ®

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