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Parthenium dermatitis treated with azathioprine weekly pulse doses.

BACKGROUND: Parthenium dermatitis is a serious problem in India. Corticosteroids are the mainstay of treatment but the prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause serious side effects. Azathioprine used in daily doses has been shown to be effective.

AIM: We have evaluated the effectiveness of azathioprine weekly pulse doses for the treatment of parthenium dermatitis.

METHODS: Twelve patients, ten males and two females, aged between 39 and 65 years (mean +/- SD = 53.5 +/- 8.7) having air-borne contact dermatitis to Parthenium hysterophorus for 3-19 years (mean = 6.33) were included in the study. The diagnosis in each patient was confirmed by patch-testing. The severity of the disease was determined by clinical severity score (CSS) on the basis of erythema, itching, type of lesions, and areas of body involved.

RESULTS: The pretreatment CSS in these patients varied from 29.7 to 55.5 (mean +/- SD: 40.40 +/- 7.95). After clinical and laboratory evaluation, the patients were treated with 300-mg azathioprine once-weekly doses for 6 months. Clinical and laboratory evaluations were repeated at weeks 1, 2, and then every 4 weeks until the end of therapy to evaluate the therapeutic response and side effects. The response was excellent (80-100% clearance of disease) in seven (58.33%) patients and good (60% clearance) in five (41.66%) patients. The post-treatment CSS decreased from the mean +/- SD of 40.4 +/- 7.95 to 10.9 +/- 8.43 (P = 0.002). There were no significant side effects of the therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: In this preliminary open study, azathioprine in weekly pulse doses has been found to be effective without any serious adverse effects in the treatment of parthenium dermatitis. The cost of therapy with this regimen is reduced by 60%.

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