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J Photochem Photobiol B. 2005 Jan 14;78(1):1-6.

A comprehensive overview of photodynamic therapy in the treatment of superficial fungal infections of the skin.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, Azienda Spedali Civili, P.le Spedali Civili 1, 25123 Brescia, Italy.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a two-step procedure, involving the topical or systemic administration of a photosensitizer followed by selective illumination of the target lesion with visible light, which triggers the oxidative photodamage and subsequent cell death within the target area. In dermatology, PDT has proven to be a useful treatment for a variety of malignant tumors and selected inflammatory diseases. In addition, PDT of several infective viral or bacterial skin diseases has been investigated. These investigations grew out of the positive findings of studies of another important use of PDT: that of disinfection of blood products. Up to now, little has been published concerning the application of PDT to fungi, probably due to the fact that research funding has been mainly directed towards blood disinfection, and these pathogens show a low risk of transfusion transmission. However, preliminary findings have demonstrated that dermatophytes and yeasts can be effectively sensitized in vitro by administering photosensitizers belonging to four chemical groups: phenothiazine dyes, porphyrins and phthalocyanines, as well as aminolevulinic acid, which, while not a photosensitizer in itself, is effectively metabolized into protoporphyrin IX. Besides efficacy, PDT has shown other benefits. First, the sensitizers used are highly selective, i.e., fungi were killed at combinations of drug and light doses much lower than that needed for a similar effect on keratinocytes. Second, all investigated photosensitizers lack genotoxic and mutagenic activity. Finally, the hazard of selection of drug resistant fungal strains was never reported. This paper intends to provide a comprehensive overview of investigative studies about the effects of PDT on yeasts and dermatophytes, and bring attention to this application of PDT which we believe very important in that skin mycosis is so common and PDT is not only cost-effective, but also has the advantages of being highly selective and avoiding the occurrence of drug resistant strains.

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