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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2005 Jan;18(1):30-43.

Allergy and dermatophytes.

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  • 1Asthma and Allergic Diseases Center, P.O. Box 801355, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908-1355, USA.


Tinea pedis (athlete's foot) and onychomycosis (infection of the toenails) caused by the dermatophyte fungus Trichophyton are highly prevalent in adults. Several Trichophyton allergens have been identified based on elicitation of immunoglobulin E antibody-mediated immediate-hypersensitivity (IH) responses. Evidence of an etiologic role for Trichophyton in asthma in some subjects with IH and chronic dermatophytosis is provided by bronchial reactivity to Trichophyton. Improvement of asthma after systemic antifungal treatment corroborates this link. A unique feature of Trichophyton allergens is the ability of the same antigen to elicit delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) in individuals who lack IH reactivity. Delayed responses appear to confer protection, while IH responses do not, based on the association with acute versus chronic skin infection. The amino acid sequence identity of Trichophyton allergens with diverse enzyme families supports a dual role for these proteins in fungal pathogenesis and allergic disease. Characterizing the immunologic properties of Trichophyton allergens and defining immune mechanisms which drive dichotomous responses are pivotal to understanding the dermatophyte-allergy relationship. Recent studies have identified DTH-associated major T-cell epitopes which could facilitate the development of peptide vaccines. Characterization of additional molecular targets by using new techniques may aid not only in the eradication of infection but also in the resolution of allergic symptoms.

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