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Mycoses. 1997;40 Suppl 1:29-32.

Pityrosporum yeasts--what's new?

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Department of Dermatology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Schweden.


The lipophilic yeast Pityrosporum ovale is a member of the normal human cutaneous flora in adults but also associated with several skin diseases. In pityriasis versicolor, under the influence of predisposing factors, P. ovale changes from the round blastospore form to the mycelial form. A great problem in pityriasis versicolor is the high rate of recurrence and to avoid this a prophylactic treatment is mandatory. Pityrosporum folliculitis is a chronic disease characterized by pruritic follicular papules and pustules located primarily on the upper trunk, neck and upper arms. In direct microscopy clusters of round budding yeast cells are found. The disease responds rapidly to antimycotic therapy. There are now many studies indicating that P. ovale plays an important role in seborrhoeic dermatitis. Many of these are treatment studies showing a good effect of antimycotics paralleled by a reduction in number of organisms. Severe seborrhoeic dermatitis often difficult to treat is associated with AIDS. In peripheral blood from a high number of patients with seborrhoeic dermatitis we found an increase in number of natural killer T-cells and decreased PHA and Con-A stimulation. Secondary we found low serum IgG antibody titres in patients compared to controls. Other studies have found a reduced lymphocyte stimulation reaction when lymphocytes from patients with seborrhoeic dermatitis were stimulated with a P. ovale extract. Additionally, IL-2 and IFN gamma production by lymphocytes from patients was markedly depressed and IL-10 synthesis were increased after stimulation with P. ovale extract. The majority of adult patients with atopic dermatitis localized to the head, neck and scalp are prick-test positive to a protein P. ovale extract. One study showed that p. ovale extracts increased IL-4, IL-10 and IgE synthesis in patients with atopic dermatitis. There are also treatment studies indicating that antifungal treatment may be beneficial in these patients.

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