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Br J Dermatol. 1996 Dec;135(6):955-8.

Tinea capitis in south-east London--a new pattern of infection with public health implications.

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  • 1Department of Medical Mycology, St John's Institute of Dermatology, UMDS, St Thomas's Hospital, London, U.K.


Recent observations on tinea capitis cases in London suggest that there has been a change in the pattern of infection with a recent and significant rise in the incidence of infections due to anthropophilic fungi. The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence and identity of tinea capitis in schools in south-east London and factors which might affect the spread of infection. This was achieved by carrying out a survey of all children, with parental consent for scalp examination, in 14 nursery, infant or junior schools in Lambeth. In addition, the accuracy of clinical diagnosis was compared with mycological findings. There were 1057 children from 4 to 14 years of age in the study. The infection rate in different schools ranged from 0 to 12% with a mean of 2.5%. A further 4.9% of children were scalp carriers of dermatophytes (range in classes 0-47%). A striking feature was that all infections were caused by anthropophilic fungi, mainly Trichophyton tonsurans or Microsporum rivalieri, and there was a correlation between the presence of two or more carriers within a class and the infection in the other children. There was a poor correlation between ability of trained observers to predict infection on clinical grounds and mycological results. This investigation shows variable but significant levels of scalp ringworm in schools and that the dominant organisms are anthropophilic. It provides support for the observation that there has been a shift in the pattern of tinea capitis in London and, possibly, other U.K. centres, with a trend towards more infections transmissible among children, with T, tonsurans being the commonest organism. The implications for control, which involve screening in schools, where appropriate, and guidance to general practitioners on treatment, are discussed.

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