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Hong Kong Med J. 2001 Jun;7(2):197-200.

Porphyria cutanea tarda and melioidosis.

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Social Hygiene Service, Department of Health, 3/F Sai Ying Pun Polyclinic, 134 Queen's Road West, Hong Kong.


Porphyria cutanea tarda is a metabolic disorder in the haem biosynthetic pathway. It includes a heterogeneous group of conditions, which may be inherited or, more commonly, acquired. Although porphyria cutanea tarda presents with cutaneous lesions only, it is often associated with systemic disease. A 64-year-old Chinese patient, who developed sporadic porphyria cutanea tarda 1 year after the diagnosis of pulmonary melioidosis, is discussed. The patient presented with a history of recurrent photosensitive vesicles, blisters, and skin fragility on the sun-exposed areas of both forearms and hands, 6 months after commencing doxycycline and amoxycillin. Both the histological and biochemical findings were characteristic of porphyria cutanea tarda. All the lesions subsided after cessation of these antibiotics. The patient was free of further lesions at follow-up 6 months later. The association seen in this case between porphyria cutanea tarda and melioidosis is unlikely to be coincidental, because these two diseases are both very rare in Hong Kong. In addition, the temporal relationship between the antibiotic therapy and the clinical course of skin lesions in this patient suggests that the drugs were a trigger factor, precipitating their appearance.

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