Epidemiologic surveillance of cutaneous fungal infection in the United States from 1999 to 2002

K Wade Foster, Mahmoud A Ghannoum, Boni E Elewski
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2004, 50 (5): 748-52

BACKGROUND: Cutaneous fungal infections are common in the United States, and causative organisms include dermatophytes, yeasts, and nondermatophyte molds. These organisms are in constant competition for their particular environmental niche, often resulting in the emergence of one or more predominant pathogens and displacement of other less competitive species. Changes in the incidence of fungal pathogens can be followed from laboratory culture results of infected cutaneous tissues over time. These data can be used to ascertain past and present trends in incidence, predict increases in antifungal resistance and the adequacy of our current pharmacologic repertoire, and provide insight into future developments.

OBJECTIVE: This study identifies epidemiologic trends and the predominant organisms causing superficial fungal infections in the United States.

METHODS: A total of 15,381 specimens were collected from clinically suspected tinea corporis, tinea cruris, tinea capitis, tinea faciei, tinea pedis, tinea manuum, and finger and toe onychomycosis from 1999 through 2002. Specimens were submitted to the Center for Medical Mycology in Cleveland, Ohio, for fungal culture and identification, and the incidence of each species was calculated.

RESULTS: Dermatophytes remain the most commonly isolated fungal organisms except from clinically suspected finger onychomycosis, in which case Candida species comprise >70% of isolates. Trichophyton rubrum remains the most prevalent fungal pathogen, and increased incidence of this species was observed in finger and toe onychomycosis, tinea corporis and tinea cruris, tinea manuum, and tinea pedis. As the causal agent of tinea capitis, T tonsurans continues to increase in incidence, achieving near exclusionary proportions in the United States.

CONCLUSION: Consideration of the current epidemiologic trends in the incidence of cutaneous fungal pathogens is of key importance to investigational efforts, diagnosis, and treatment.

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