Prevalence and risk factors for superficial fungal infections among Italian Navy Cadets

Vito Ingordo, Luigi Naldi, Stefania Fracchiolla, Bruno Colecchia
Dermatology: International Journal for Clinical and Investigative Dermatology 2004, 209 (3): 190-6

BACKGROUND: Limited studies on the prevalence and risk factors for superficial mycoses are available.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this paper was to evaluate the prevalence and risk factors for superficial mycoses (dermatophytes and Candida spp.) in a sample of young Italian people resident at a military school.

METHODS: A total of 1,024 young cadets from the Italian Navy Petty Officers School in Taranto, including 975 (95.21%) males and 49 (4.79%) females, mean age 22.5 +/- 3.0 years (range 18-30), were consecutively examined by the same observer. A complete dermatological examination was performed on all the subjects, and skin scrapings for microscopy and fungal culture were obtained from suspected lesions. All the subjects completed a questionnaire providing information on sports practice, swimming-pool attendance, marching, wearing shower sandals, frequent use of 'gummed' shoes, history of severe traumas to the nails, presence of hyperhidrosis and history of superficial mycoses. The affected subjects were also asked if they were aware of their condition. Data were analysed by the Statistical Analysis System, version 8.0. The Fisher exact test and odds ratios were calculated.

RESULTS: A total of 33 subjects (3.2%) were found to suffer from a mycologically confirmed fungal infection (3% by dermatophytes and 0.2% by Candida albicans): tinea pedis/Candida intertrigo of the feet was suspected in 126 (12.1%) subjects and confirmed in 30 (2.9%), including 28 cases of tinea pedis and 2 cases of Candida intertrigo; tinea cruris/Candida intertrigo of the groin was suspected in 28 (2.7%) subjects, but confirmed in only 1 case (0.1%); onychomycosis was suspected in 64 (6.1%) subjects and confirmed in 2 cases (0.2%). The organism most frequently responsible in tinea pedis was Trichophyton mentagrophytes var. interdigitale (82.1%). The same species (50%) and T. mentagrophytes var. mentagrophytes (50%) were associated with tinea unguium, Epidermophyton floccosum was the only species detected in tinea cruris. Non-dermatophytic filamentous fungi (Penicillium spp., Fusarium spp., Aspergillus spp. and Paecilomyces spp.), not considered pathogenic, were isolated in 48 samples. None of the risk factors analysed were significantly associated with fungal infection. Only 2 subjects out of the 33 people affected were aware of their condition. They both had tinea pedis.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of mycoses in sailors living in an Italian military school was lower than rates detected in other military populations. This may be due to the cadets' lifestyle and environmental conditions. The most frequent infection was tinea pedis, mainly caused by T. interdigitale. None of the investigated risk factors were significantly associated with the disease, and most of the affected individuals were not aware of their condition.

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