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1.  The pattern of skin diseases in the Qassim region of Saudi Arabia: What the primary care physician should know 
Annals of Saudi Medicine  2010;30(6):448-453.
Epidemiological studies to determine the burden of skin diseases are important for proper health care planning. The purpose of this study was to find the pattern of skin diseases in our patients attending university-affiliated dermatologic clinics in the Qassim region.
We conducted a prospective study of all Saudi patients attending the Qassim University Medical College-affiliated dermatology clinics of the Ministry of Health for a period of 12 months from 1 March 2008 to 28 February 2009.
The study included 3051 patients comprising 1786 (58.5%) males and 1265 (41.5%) females. Males outnumbered females (P<.05) (male-to-female ratio, 1.4:1). The mean age (standard error of the mean) of the patients was 25.3 (0.27) years. About 71% of the patients were between 5 and 34 years of age. The top five skin diseases were eczema/ dermatitis (19.5%), viral infections (16.6%), pilosebaceous disorders (14.4%), pigmentary lesions (11.2%) and hair disorders (7.6%). The major disorder in males was viral skin infections (20.0%), while eczema/dermatitis (20.7%) constituted the most prevalent skin disease in females. Seasonal variations were recorded in cases of pigmentary lesions, papulosquamous disorders and protozoal infections.
Infectious skin diseases, eczema/dermatitis, pilosebaceous disorders, pigmentary lesions and hair disorders ranked as the top five skin diseases. Appropriate training programs for diagnosing and managing common skin diseases should be initiated for primary health care physicians and other general practitioners so as to decrease referrals to dermatology clinics.
PMCID: PMC2994160  PMID: 21060156
2.  Scabies Mites Alter the Skin Microbiome and Promote Growth of Opportunistic Pathogens in a Porcine Model 
The resident skin microbiota plays an important role in restricting pathogenic bacteria, thereby protecting the host. Scabies mites (Sarcoptes scabiei) are thought to promote bacterial infections by breaching the skin barrier and excreting molecules that inhibit host innate immune responses. Epidemiological studies in humans confirm increased incidence of impetigo, generally caused by Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes, secondary to the epidermal infestation with the parasitic mite. It is therefore possible that mite infestation could alter the healthy skin microbiota making way for the opportunistic pathogens. A longitudinal study to test this hypothesis in humans is near impossible due to ethical reasons. In a porcine model we generated scabies infestations closely resembling the disease manifestation in humans and investigated the scabies associated changes in the skin microbiota over the course of a mite infestation.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In a 21 week trial, skin scrapings were collected from pigs infected with S. scabies var. suis and scabies-free control animals. A total of 96 skin scrapings were collected before, during infection and after acaricide treatment, and analyzed by bacterial 16S rDNA tag-encoded FLX-titanium amplicon pyrosequencing. We found significant changes in the epidermal microbiota, in particular a dramatic increase in Staphylococcus correlating with the onset of mite infestation in animals challenged with scabies mites. This increase persisted beyond treatment from mite infection and healing of skin. Furthermore, the staphylococci population shifted from the commensal S. hominis on the healthy skin prior to scabies mite challenge to S. chromogenes, which is increasingly recognized as being pathogenic, coinciding with scabies infection in pigs. In contrast, all animals in the scabies-free cohort remained relatively free of Staphylococcus throughout the trial.
This is the first experimental in vivo evidence supporting previous assumptions that establishment of pathogens follow scabies infection. Our findings provide an explanation for a biologically important aspect of the disease pathogenesis. The methods developed from this pig trial will serve as a guide to analyze human clinical samples. Studies building on this will offer implications for development of novel intervention strategies against the mites and the secondary infections.
Author Summary
Scabies is a neglected, contagious skin disease caused by a parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. It is highly prevalent world-wide, and now recognized as a possible underlying factor for secondary bacterial infections with potential serious downstream complications. There is currently few experimental data demonstrating directly that mite infestation promotes bacterial infections. Due to remarkable similarities in terms of immunology, physiology and skin anatomy between pigs and humans, we developed a sustainable porcine model enabling in vivo studies of scabies mite infestations. Here, we investigated the impact of the scabies mite infection on the normal pig skin microbiota in the inner ear pinnae in young piglets. Samples obtained prior to, during infection and after acaricide treatment were analyzed by sequencing of bacterial 16S rDNA. We report that scabies infestation has an impact on the host's skin microbiota. Staphylococcus abundance increased with the onset of infection and remained beyond treatment and healing. A shift from commensal to pathogenic Staphylococci was observed. This study supports the link between scabies and Staphylococcus infections, as seen in humans. It is the first in vivo demonstration of a mite induced shift in the skin microbiota, providing a basis for a similar study in humans.
PMCID: PMC4038468  PMID: 24875186
3.  A Randomised Controlled Trial of Ion-Exchange Water Softeners for the Treatment of Eczema in Children 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(2):e1000395.
In a randomized trial evaluating the effect of installation of ion-exchange water softeners in the households of children with eczema, the researchers found no evidence of improvement in eczema severity as compared to usual care in the study population.
Epidemiological studies and anecdotal reports suggest a possible link between household use of hard water and atopic eczema. We sought to test whether installation of an ion-exchange water softener in the home can improve eczema in children.
Methods and Findings
This was an observer-blind randomised trial involving 336 children (aged 6 months to 16 years) with moderate/severe atopic eczema. All lived in hard water areas (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate). Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. The primary outcome was change in eczema severity (Six Area Six Sign Atopic Dermatitis Score, SASSAD) at 12 weeks, measured by research nurses who were blinded to treatment allocation. Analysis was based on the intent-to-treat population. Eczema severity improved for both groups during the trial. The mean change in SASSAD at 12 weeks was −5.0 (20% improvement) for the water softener group and −5.7 (22% improvement) for the usual care group (mean difference 0.66, 95% confidence interval −1.37 to 2.69, p = 0.53). No between-group differences were noted in the use of topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors.
Water softeners provided no additional benefit to usual care in this study population. Small but statistically significant differences were found in some secondary outcomes as reported by parents, but it is likely that such improvements were the result of response bias, since participants were aware of their treatment allocation. A detailed report for this trial is also available at
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN71423189
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Eczema (sometimes referred to as atopic dermatitis) is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that affects about 20% of school children in developed countries. Eczema is often associated with other conditions, such as asthma, hay-fever and food allergy and can cause intractable itching leading to thickened skin, bleeding, secondary infection, sleep loss, poor concentration, and psychological distress. Current topical treatments for eczema have side effects, for example, topical corticosteroids may cause skin thinning and the long term safety of topical tacrolimus and pimecrolimus has yet to be determined. Therefore, there is a lot of interest in exploring the benefits of non-pharmacological treatments that have no apparent side effects.
Water hardness (≥200 mg/l calcium carbonate) has become a recent focus of attention.
Why Was This Study Done?
In addition to some epidemiological evidence linking increased water hardness with increased eczema prevalence, there have been widespread anecdotal reports of improvement in the skin of children with eczema when the family has moved from a hard to a soft water area. In addition, some patients report how their eczema symptoms have rapidly improved following the installation of a water softener. However, to date there have been no relevant published trials evaluating the potential benefit of water softeners for eczema. Given the lack of evidence, the high public interest in their potential benefit and the low risk of adverse effects, the researcher conducted a study to assess whether the installation of an ion-exchange water softener reduces the severity of eczema in children with moderate to severe eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did a pilot study that showed that it was not possible to blind participants to their treatment allocation using real and “dummy” water softener units because the softened water produced more soap suds. So the researchers conducted an observer-blind randomised controlled trial in which they used trained research nurses to conduct an objective assessment of every participant's skin. The researchers recruited 336 children who all lived in hard water areas in England. Eligible children were aged 6 months to 16 years who had a diagnosis of eczema (in line with the UK working party's diagnostic criteria) and an eczema severity score of 10 or over. Participants were randomised to either installation of an ion-exchange water softener plus usual eczema care, or usual eczema care alone. Trained research nurses examined each child's skin at baseline and at 6, 12, and 16 weeks to record changes in eczema severity. The researchers also analysed any changes in symptoms over the study period such as, sleep loss and itchiness, the amount of topical corticosteroid/calcineurin inhibitors used, the Dermatitis Family Impact questionnaire and the health related Quality of Life (children's version).
Although both treatment groups improved in disease severity during the course of the trial, the researchers found no difference between the treatment groups in the main outcome—eczema severity. Similar finding were found for night movement (scratching) and the use of topical medications (creams/ointments applied to the skin), both of which were blinded to intervention status. Nevertheless, parents in the trial did report small health benefits, and just over 50% chose to buy the water softener at the end of the trial because of perceived improvements in the eczema and the wider benefits of water softeners. It is unclear how much of this effect can be explained by prior belief in the effectiveness of the water softeners for the treatment of eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results of this study suggest that water softeners provide no additional clinical benefit to usual care in children with eczema so the use of ion-exchange water softeners for the treatment of moderate to severe eczema in children should not be recommended. However, it is up to each family to decide whether or not the wider benefits of installing a water softener in their home are sufficient to consider buying one.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The UK's NHS presents information on eczema for patients and families
MedlinePlus gives information for patients, families, and caregivers on eczema and other similar conditions
The National Eczema Society in the UK provides information and a helpline for eczema patients, families, and caregivers
Medinfo provides information for eczema patients
Wikipedia has more information about water softening (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC3039684  PMID: 21358807
4.  Skin-Derived TSLP Triggers Progression from Epidermal-Barrier Defects to Asthma 
PLoS Biology  2009;7(5):e1000067.
A skin-derived cytokine with high systemic availability provides a mechanistic explanation for atopic march and highlights a potential therapeutic target for preventing the development of asthma among people with atopic dermatitis.
Asthma is a common allergic lung disease frequently affecting individuals with a prior history of eczema/atopic dermatitis (AD); however, the mechanism underlying the progression from AD to asthma (the so-called “atopic march”) is unclear. Here we show that, like humans with AD, mice with skin-barrier defects develop AD-like skin inflammation and are susceptible to allergic asthma. Furthermore, we show that thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), overexpressed by skin keratinocytes, is the systemic driver of this bronchial hyper-responsiveness. As an AD-like model, we used mice with keratinocyte-specific deletion of RBP-j that sustained high systemic levels of TSLP. Antigen-induced allergic challenge to the lung airways of RBP-j–deficient animals resulted in a severe asthmatic phenotype not seen in similarly treated wild-type littermates. Elimination of TSLP signaling in these animals blocked the atopic march, demonstrating that high serum TSLP levels were required to sensitize the lung to allergic inflammation. Furthermore, we analyzed outbred K14-TSLPtg mice that maintained high systemic levels of TSLP without developing any skin pathology. Importantly, epidermal-derived TSLP was sufficient to trigger the atopic march, sensitizing the lung airways to inhaled allergens in the absence of epicutaneous sensitization. Based on these findings, we propose that in addition to early treatment of the primary skin-barrier defects, selective inhibition of systemic TSLP may be the key to blocking the development of asthma in AD patients.
Author Summary
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a common allergic skin inflammation that has a particularly high prevalence among children. Importantly, a large proportion of people suffering from eczema go on to develop asthma later in life. Although the susceptibility of eczema patients to asthma is well documented, the mechanism that mediates “atopic march”—the progression from eczema to asthma—is unclear. We used genetic engineering to generate mice with chronic skin-barrier defects and a subsequent eczema-like disorder. With these mice, we were able to investigate how skin-specific defects predisposed the lungs to allergic asthma. We identified thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), a cytokine that is secreted by barrier-defective skin into the systemic circulation, as the agent sensitizing the lung to allergens. We demonstrated that high systemic levels of skin-derived TSLP were both required and sufficient to render lung airways hypersensitive to allergens. Thus, these data suggest that early treatment of skin-barrier defects to prevent TSLP overexpression, and systemic inhibition of TSLP, may be crucial in preventing the progression from eczema to asthma.
PMCID: PMC2700555  PMID: 19557146
5.  High Prevalence of Skin Disorders among HTLV-1 Infected Individuals Independent of Clinical Status 
Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) infection can increase the risk of developing skin disorders. This study evaluated the correlation between HTLV-1 proviral load and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells count among HTLV-1 infected individuals, with or without skin disorders (SD) associated with HTLV-1 infection [SD-HTLV-1: xerosis/ichthyosis, seborrheic dermatitis or infective dermatitis associated to HTLV-1 (IDH)].
A total of 193 HTLV-1-infected subjects underwent an interview, dermatological examination, initial HTLV-1 proviral load assay, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells count, and lymphproliferation assay (LPA).
A total of 147 patients had an abnormal skin condition; 116 (79%) of them also had SD-HTLV-1 and 21% had other dermatological diagnoses. The most prevalent SD-HTLV-1 was xerosis/acquired ichthyosis (48%), followed by seborrheic dermatitis (28%). Patients with SD-HTLV-1 were older (51 vs. 47 years), had a higher prevalence of myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) (75%), and had an increased first HTLV-1 proviral load and basal LPA compared with patients without SD-HTLV-1. When excluding HAM/TSP patients, the first HTLV-1 proviral load of SD-HTLV-1 individuals remains higher than no SD-HTLV-1 patients.
There was a high prevalence of skin disorders (76%) among HTLV-1-infected individuals, regardless of clinical status, and 60% of these diseases are considered skin disease associated with HTLV-1 infection.
Author Summary
HTLV-1 infection may increase the risk of developing skin disorders. A total of 193 HTLV-1 infected subjects were studied, including asymptomatic carriers and HAM/TSP patients. Of the subjects, 76% had an abnormal skin condition, with a high prevalence both among HTLV-1 asymptomatic carriers and HAM/TSP patients. The most prevalent SD-HTLV-1 was xerosis/acquired ichthyosis (48%), followed by seborrheic dermatitis (28%). Patients with SD-HTLV-1 were older (51 vs. 47 years), had a higher prevalence of myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) (75%) and an increased first HTLV-1 proviral load compared with patients without SD-HTLV-1. When excluding HAM/TSP patients, the first HTLV-1 proviral load of SD-HTLV-1 individuals remains higher than no SD-HTLV-1 patients. Thus, skin diseases are highly prevalent among HTLV-1-infected individuals.
PMCID: PMC3820737  PMID: 24244779
6.  Epidemiology of Skin Disease in an Automobile Factory* 
A survey was made of a random sample of workers from the machine shops, assembly lines, and stock and store departments of an automobile factory. Among the 1,223 men seen, representing 97% of the sample, the prevalence of non-infective skin diseases was 14·5%. Skin diseases were classified into four groups: `dermatitis' and `folliculitis' of occupational origin, endogenous `eczemas', and miscellaneous skin diseases. Slightly more than half of all the skin diseases seen were considered to be occupational in origin.
In this population the prevalence of skin disease was more than four times that based on patients attending the factory medical department.
An unsuspected cause of allergic dermatitis was found on the assembly lines, where the incidence of dermatitis was significantly higher than among the non-production workers. The prevalence of folliculitis was significantly higher among production than non-production workers. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of `eczema' or the miscellaneous skin diseases in the various occupational groups.
Among European workers fair men were more prone to skin disease than darker men. In another factory, a West Indian and Asiatic group of workers had a significantly lower prevalence of skin diseases than a group of Europeans doing similar work.
Folliculitis was more prevalent among the younger workers and those recently employed in the factory; there was no obvious association between age and length of service and the occurrence of other types of skin disease.
PMCID: PMC1038403  PMID: 14249898
7.  Comparative Proteomic Profiling of Atopic Dermatitis Patients Based on History of Eczema Herpeticum Infection and Staphylococcus aureus Colonization 
Atopic dermatitis is the most common inflammatory skin disorder in the general population worldwide and the majority of patients are colonized with Staphylococcus aureus. Eczema herpeticum is a disseminated herpes simplex virus infection that occurs in a small subset of patients.
The goal was to conduct proteomic profiling of atopic dermatitis patients based on Staphylococcus aureus colonization status and history of eczema herpeticum. We hoped to identify new biomarkers for improved diagnosis and prediction of eczema herpeticum and Staphylococcus aureus susceptibility, and to generate new hypotheses regarding disease pathogenesis.
Skin taping was performed on nonlesional skin of non-atopic controls and on lesional and nonlesional skin of atopic dermatitis patients. Subjects were classified according to history of eczema herpeticum and Staphylococcus aureus colonization. Proteins were analyzed using mass spectrometry; diagnostic groups were compared for statistically significant differences in protein expression.
Proteins related to the skin barrier (filaggrin-2, corneodesmosin, desmoglein-1, desmocollin-1, and transglutaminase-3) and generation of natural moisturizing factor (arginase-1, caspase-14, gamma-glutamyl cyclotransferase) were expressed at significantly lower levels in lesional versus nonlesional sites of atopic dermatitis patients with and without history of eczema herpeticum; epidermal fatty acid binding protein was expressed at significantly higher levels in patients with methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
This non-invasive, semi-quantitative profiling method has revealed novel proteins likely involved in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. The lower expression of skin barrier proteins and enzymes involved in the generation of the natural moisturizing factor could further exacerbate barrier defects and perpetuate water loss from the skin. The greater expression of epidermal fatty acid binding protein, especially in patients colonized with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, may perpetuate the inflammatory response via eicosanoid signaling.
PMCID: PMC3059191  PMID: 21211653
Atopic dermatitis; mass spectrometry; proteomics; natural moisturizing factor; eczema herpeticum; tape stripping; skin barrier; filaggrin-2; epidermal fatty acid binding protein; methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus
8.  Recurrent wheezing is associated with intestinal protozoan infections in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:293.
While in developed countries the prevalence of allergic diseases is rising, inflammatory diseases are relatively uncommon in rural developing areas. High prevalence rates of helminth and protozoan infections are commonly found in children living in rural settings and several studies suggest an inverse association between helminth infections and allergies. No studies investigating the relationship between parasitic infections and atopic diseases in rural children of developing countries under the age of 2 years have been published so far. We performed a cross-sectional survey to investigate the association of helminth and protozoan infections and malnutrition with recurrent wheezing and atopic eczema in Warao Amerindian children in Venezuela.
From August to November 2012, 229 children aged 0 to 2 years residing in the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela were enrolled. Data were collected through standardized questionnaires and physical examination, including inspection of the skin and anthropometric measurements. A stool sample was requested from all participants and detection of different parasites was performed using microscopy and real time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
We observed high prevalence rates of atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing, respectively 19% and 23%. The prevalence of helminth infections was 26% and the prevalence of protozoan infections was 59%. Atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing were more frequently observed in stunted compared with non-stunted children in multivariable analysis (OR 4.3, 95% CI 1.3 – 13.6, p = 0.015 and OR 4.5, 95% CI 0.97 – 21.2, p = 0.055). Furthermore, recurrent wheezing was significantly more often observed in children with protozoan infections than in children without protozoan infections (OR 6.7, 95% CI 1.5 – 30.5).
High prevalence rates of atopic eczema and recurrent wheezing in Warao Amerindian children under 2 years of age were related to stunting and intestinal protozoan infections respectively. Helminth infections were not significantly associated with either atopic eczema or recurrent wheezing.
PMCID: PMC4045948  PMID: 24885094
Atopic eczema; Helminth; Indigenous children; Malnutrition; Protozoa; Recurrent wheezing
Indian Journal of Dermatology  2009;54(4):338-341.
Cutaneous disorders during HIV infection are numerous and skin is often the first and only organ affected during most of the course of HIV disease. Some Cutaneous disorders reflect the progression of HIV disease; though the relation is still controversial.
The objective of this study, conducted at a tertiary care centre in Bastar, Jagdalpur, is to estimate the status of cutaneous manifestation in HIV-infected patients and its relationship with CD4 cell counts.
We enrolled 137 HIV positive subjects. Demographic information such as age, gender, weight, height, socioeconomic status, and educational status were recorded. Laboratory parameter (CD4 counts) and treatment regimen were noted. Patients were examined for skin disorders by a dermatologist. Data were analyzed using chi-square test for categorical variables.
Majority of the patients were from rural area (65.69%) and belonged to a low socioeconomic and educational status. 30.65% of the patients were housewives, 23.35% drivers, and 16.78% labourers. Predominant mode of transmission was heterosexual contact (94.16%). Most common HIV-related dermatological manifestations were seborrheic dermatitis (74.16%), xerosis (52.5%), generalized skin hyperpigmentation 56 (46.67%), onychomycosis 53 (44.16%), pruritic papular eruption 27 (22.5%), oral candidiasis 21 (17.5%), photo dermatitis 21 (17.5%), and scabies 4 (3.33%). Significant correlation with low CD4+ cell counts was found for oral candidiasis (P < 0.0001) and Kaposi's sarcoma (P = 0.03), while other disorders such as seborrheic dermatitis (P = 0.22), xerosis (P = 0.25), and onychomycosis (P = 0.08) were not statistically significant.
This study showed high prevalence of dermatological manifestations in HIV-infected subjects, and they occur more frequently with progression of HIV and decline in immune functions. Therefore, early diagnosis and management of skin disorders can improve the quality of life of HIV-infected subjects.
PMCID: PMC2807709  PMID: 20101334
Human immunodeficiency virus; National Aids Control Organisation; people living with HIV/AIDS
10.  Long-term periodic anthelmintic treatments are associated with increased allergen skin reactivity 
Clinical and Experimental Allergy  2010;40(11):1669-1677.
The low prevalence of allergic disease in the rural tropics has been attributed to the protective effects of chronic helminth infections. There is concern that treatment-based control programmes for these parasites may lead to an increase in the prevalence of allergic diseases.
We measured the impact of 15–17 years of anthelmintic treatment with ivermectin on the prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity and allergic symptoms in school-age children.
The prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity, exercise-induced bronchospasm and allergic symptoms was compared between school-age children living in communities that had received community-based treatments with ivermectin (for onchocerciasis control) for a period of 15–17 years with those living in geographically adjacent communities that had received no ivermectin.
The prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity was double in children living in treated communities compared with those in untreated communities (16.7% vs. 8.7%, adjusted OR 2.10, 95% CI 1.50–2.94, P<0.0001), and the effect was mediated partly by a reduced prevalence of Trichuris trichiura among treated children. Ivermectin treatments were associated with an increased prevalence of recent eczema symptoms (adjusted OR 2.24, 95% CI 1.05–4.78, P=0.04) but not symptoms of asthma or rhino-conjunctivitis. The effect on eczema symptoms was not associated with reductions in geohelminth infections.
Long-term periodic treatments with ivermectin were associated with an increased prevalence of allergen skin test reactivity. There was some evidence that treatment was associated with an increased prevalence of recent eczema symptoms but not those of asthma or rhino-conjunctivitis.
Cite this as: P. Endara, M. Vaca, M. E. Chico, S. Erazo, G. Oviedo, I. Quinzo, A. Rodriguez R. Lovato, A.-L. Moncayo, M. L. Barreto, L. C. Rodrigues and P. J. Cooper, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 1669–1677.
PMCID: PMC3034193  PMID: 21039971
allergen skin reactivity; geohelminths; ivermectin
11.  Contact dermatitis and other skin conditions in instrumental musicians 
BMC Dermatology  2004;4:3.
The skin is important in the positioning and playing of a musical instrument. During practicing and performing there is a permanent more or less intense contact between the instrument and the musician's skin. Apart from aggravation of predisposed skin diseases (e.g., atopic eczema or psoriasis) due to music-making, specific dermatologic conditions may develop that are directly caused by playing a musical instrument.
To perform a systematic review on instrument-related skin diseases in musicians we searched the PubMed database without time limits. Furthermore we studied the online bibliography "Occupational diseases of performing artist. A performing arts medicine bibliography. October, 2003" and checked references of all selected articles for relevant papers.
The most prevalent skin disorders of instrumental musicians, in particular string instrumentalists (e.g., violinists, cellists, guitarists), woodwind players (e.g., flautists, clarinetists), and brass instrumentalists (e.g., trumpeters), include a variety of allergic contact sensitizations (e.g., colophony, nickel, and exotic woods) and irritant (physical-chemical noxae) skin conditions whose clinical presentation and localization are usually specific for the instrument used (e.g., "fiddler's neck", "cellist's chest", "guitar nipple", "flautist's chin"). Apart from common callosities and "occupational marks" (e.g., "Garrod's pads") more or less severe skin injuries may occur in musical instrumentalists, in particular acute and chronic wounds including their complications. Skin infections such as herpes labialis seem to be a more common skin problem in woodwind and brass instrumentalists.
Skin conditions may be a significant problem not only in professional instrumentalists, but also in musicians of all ages and ability. Although not life threatening they may lead to impaired performance and occupational hazard. Unfortunately, epidemiological investigations have exclusively been performed on orchestra musicians, though the prevalence of instrument-related skin conditions in other musician groups (e.g., jazz and rock musicians) is also of interest. The practicing clinician should be aware of the special dermatologic problems unique to the musical instrumentalist. Moreover awareness among musicians needs to be raised, as proper technique and conditioning may help to prevent affection of performance and occupational impairment.
PMCID: PMC416484  PMID: 15090069
12.  High Prevalence of Skin Diseases and Need for Treatment in a Middle-Aged Population. A Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99533.
To determine the overall prevalence of skin diseases a whole-body skin examination was performed for 1,932 members (46-years of age) of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort (NFBC 1966), which is a comprehensive longitudinal research program (N = 12,058). A high prevalence of all skin diseases needing treatment was found (N = 1,158). Half of the cases of skin findings were evaluated to be serious enough to require diagnostic evaluation, treatment or follow-up either in a general health care, occupational health care or a secondary care setting. The remaining half were thought to be slight and self-treatment was advised. Males (70%) had more skin diseases needing treatment than females (52%) (P<0.001). The most common skin finding was a benign skin tumor, which was found in every cohort member. Skin infections (44%), eczemas (27%) and sebaceous gland diseases (27%) were the most common skin diseases in the cohort. Moreover, skin infections and eczemas were more commonly seen in the group with low education compared to those with high education (P<0.005). The results strengthen the postulate that skin diseases are common in an adult population.
PMCID: PMC4049840  PMID: 24911008
13.  Prevention of Tungiasis and Tungiasis-Associated Morbidity Using the Plant-Based Repellent Zanzarin: A Randomized, Controlled Field Study in Rural Madagascar 
Tungiasis, a parasitic skin disease caused by the female sand flea Tunga penetrans, is a prevalent condition in impoverished communities in the tropics. In this setting, the ectoparasitosis is associated with important morbidity. It causes disfigurement and mutilation of the feet. Feasible and effective treatment is not available. So far prevention is the only means to control tungiasis-associated morbidity.
In two villages in Central Madagascar, we assessed the efficacy of the availability of closed shoes and the twice-daily application of a plant-based repellent active against sand fleas (Zanzarin) in comparison to a control group without intervention. The study population was randomized into three groups: shoe group, repellent group and control group and monitored for ten weeks. The intensity of infestation, the attack rate and the severity of tungiasis-associated morbidity were assessed every two weeks.
In the repellent group, the median attack rate became zero already after two weeks. The intensity of the infestation decreased constantly during the observation period and tungiasis-associated morbidity was lowered to an insignificant level. In the shoe group, only a marginal decrease in the intensity of infestation and in the attack rate was observed. At week 10, the intensity of infestation, the attack rate and the severity score for acute tungiasis remained significantly higher in the shoe group than in the repellent group. Per protocol analysis showed that the protective effect of shoes was closely related to the regularity with which shoes were worn.
Although shoes were requested by the villagers and wearing shoes was encouraged by the investigators at the beginning of the study, the availability of shoes only marginally influenced the attack rate of female sand fleas. The twice-daily application of a plant-based repellent active against sand fleas reduced the attack to zero and lowered tungiasis-associated morbidity to an insignificant level.
Author Summary
Tungiasis (sand flea disease) is a parasitic skin disease present in many resource-poor communities in South America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. In this setting tungiasis is associated with important morbidity. Hitherto, the only effective treatment is the surgical extraction of embedded sand fleas. In the endemic areas this is done using inappropriate sharp instruments and causes more harm than good. The prevention of the infestation is the only option to control morbidity. In this study we show that the twice daily application of a herbal repellent based on coconut-oil (Zanzarin), is highly effective in preventing sand flea disease in a heavily affected community in Madagascar. The attack rate became zero immediately after starting the application of the repellent. The degree of tungiasis associated morbidity approached zero within 10 weeks. In contrast, the availability of closed solid shoes had only a marginal protective effect; although shoes were requested by the villagers and wearing shoes was encouraged by the investigators at the beginning of the study. In a control group from the same village the attack rate, the intensity of infestation and of tungiasis-associated morbidity remained unchanged. Our study in rural Madagascar shows that effective und sustainable morbidity control is possible using a repellent derived from coconut oil.
PMCID: PMC3777867  PMID: 24069481
14.  Adequate Wound Care and Use of Bed Nets as Protective Factors against Buruli Ulcer: Results from a Case Control Study in Cameroon 
Buruli ulcer is an infectious disease involving the skin, caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Its exact transmission mechanism remains unknown. Several arguments indicate a possible role for insects in its transmission. A previous case-control study in the Nyong valley region in central Cameroon showed an unexpected association between bed net use and protection against Buruli ulcer. We investigated whether this association persisted in a newly discovered endemic Buruli ulcer focus in Bankim, northwestern Cameroon.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We conducted a case-control study on 77 Buruli ulcer cases and 153 age-, gender- and village-matched controls. Participants were interviewed about their activities and habits. Multivariate conditional logistic regression analysis identified systematic use of a bed net (Odds-Ratio (OR) = 0.4, 95% Confidence Interval [95%CI] = [0.2–0.9], p-value (p) = 0.04), cleansing wounds with soap (OR [95%CI] = 0.1 [0.03–0.3], p<0.0001) and growing cassava (OR [95%CI] = 0.3 [0.2–0.7], p = 0.005) as independent protective factors. Independent risk factors were bathing in the Mbam River (OR [95%CI] = 6.9 [1.4–35], p = 0.02) and reporting scratch lesions after insect bites (OR [95%CI] = 2.7 [1.4–5.4], p = 0.004). The proportion of cases that could be prevented by systematic bed net use was 32%, and by adequate wound care was 34%.
Our study confirms that two previously identified factors, adequate wound care and bed net use, significantly decreased the risk of Buruli ulcer. These associations withstand generalization to different geographic, climatic and epidemiologic settings. Involvement of insects in the household environment, and the relationship between wound hygiene and M. ulcerans infection should now be investigated.
Author Summary
Mycobacterium ulcerans is the causative agent of Buruli ulcer disease, which causes skin wounds and often results in disabilities. The transmission of M. ulcerans remains unknown. Environmental and biological studies have gathered evidence that insects could play a role in M. ulcerans circulation. A case-control study performed in central Cameroon in 2007 unexpectedly illuminated an association between bed net use and a decreased risk of Buruli ulcer. As this result suggested a potential domestic transmission involving insects, we set up a new study to investigate whether this association existed in Bankim, a newly discovered Buruli ulcer endemic site in northwestern Cameroon. Our results confirm the protective effect of bed nets in this region, despite very different population, environment, and climate factors. They also confirm the role of good hygienic practices, a protective factor repeatedly identified in previous studies. These repeated associations now warrant further research on a possible domestic or peri-domestic transmission of the disease, involving local water collections and possibly insects.
PMCID: PMC3210760  PMID: 22087346
15.  Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing 
Executive Summary
This report from the Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) was intended to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in average risk Canadians and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, this report also includes a systematic literature review of the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these two subgroups.
This evaluation did not set out to determine the serum vitamin D thresholds that might apply to non-bone health outcomes. For bone health outcomes, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support a target serum level above 50 nmol/L. Similarly, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found to support vitamin D’s effects in non-bone health outcomes, other than falls.
Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a lipid soluble vitamin that acts as a hormone. It stimulates intestinal calcium absorption and is important in maintaining adequate phosphate levels for bone mineralization, bone growth, and remodelling. It’s also believed to be involved in the regulation of cell growth proliferation and apoptosis (programmed cell death), as well as modulation of the immune system and other functions. Alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D has also been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in elderly men (≥ 65 years), postmenopausal women, and the risk of falls in community-dwelling seniors. However, in a comprehensive systematic review, inconsistent results were found concerning the effects of vitamin D in conditions such as cancer, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular disease. In fact, no high or moderate quality evidence could be found concerning the effects of vitamin D in such non-bone health outcomes. Given the uncertainties surrounding the effects of vitamin D in non-bone health related outcomes, it was decided that this evaluation should focus on falls and the effects of vitamin D in bone health and exclusively within average-risk individuals and patients with kidney disease.
Synthesis of vitamin D occurs naturally in the skin through exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight, but it can also be obtained from dietary sources including fortified foods, and supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, fish liver oil, and some types of mushrooms. Since it is usually difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from non-fortified foods, either due to low content or infrequent use, most vitamin D is obtained from fortified foods, exposure to sunlight, and supplements.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Vitamin D deficiency may lead to rickets in infants and osteomalacia in adults. Factors believed to be associated with vitamin D deficiency include:
darker skin pigmentation,
winter season,
living at higher latitudes,
skin coverage,
kidney disease,
malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and
genetic factors.
Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency due to either renal losses or decreased synthesis of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.
Health Canada currently recommends that, until the daily recommended intakes (DRI) for vitamin D are updated, Canada’s Food Guide (Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) should be followed with respect to vitamin D intake. Issued in 2007, the Guide recommends that Canadians consume two cups (500 ml) of fortified milk or fortified soy beverages daily in order to obtain a daily intake of 200 IU. In addition, men and women over the age of 50 should take 400 IU of vitamin D supplements daily. Additional recommendations were made for breastfed infants.
A Canadian survey evaluated the median vitamin D intake derived from diet alone (excluding supplements) among 35,000 Canadians, 10,900 of which were from Ontario. Among Ontarian males ages 9 and up, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake ranged between 196 IU and 272 IU per day. Among females, it varied from 152 IU to 196 IU per day. In boys and girls ages 1 to 3, the median daily dietary vitamin D intake was 248 IU, while among those 4 to 8 years it was 224 IU.
Vitamin D Testing
Two laboratory tests for vitamin D are available, 25-hydroxy vitamin D, referred to as 25(OH)D, and 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Vitamin D status is assessed by measuring the serum 25(OH)D levels, which can be assayed using radioimmunoassays, competitive protein-binding assays (CPBA), high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC), and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). These may yield different results with inter-assay variation reaching up to 25% (at lower serum levels) and intra-assay variation reaching 10%.
The optimal serum concentration of vitamin D has not been established and it may change across different stages of life. Similarly, there is currently no consensus on target serum vitamin D levels. There does, however, appear to be a consensus on the definition of vitamin D deficiency at 25(OH)D < 25 nmol/l, which is based on the risk of diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia. Higher target serum levels have also been proposed based on subclinical endpoints such as parathyroid hormone (PTH). Therefore, in this report, two conservative target serum levels have been adopted, 25 nmol/L (based on the risk of rickets and osteomalacia), and 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on vitamin D’s interaction with PTH).
Ontario Context
Volume & Cost
The volume of vitamin D tests done in Ontario has been increasing over the past 5 years with a steep increase of 169,000 tests in 2007 to more than 393,400 tests in 2008. The number of tests continues to rise with the projected number of tests for 2009 exceeding 731,000. According to the Ontario Schedule of Benefits, the billing cost of each test is $51.7 for 25(OH)D (L606, 100 LMS units, $0.517/unit) and $77.6 for 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (L605, 150 LMS units, $0.517/unit). Province wide, the total annual cost of vitamin D testing has increased from approximately $1.7M in 2004 to over $21.0M in 2008. The projected annual cost for 2009 is approximately $38.8M.
Evidence-Based Analysis
The objective of this report is to evaluate the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in those with kidney disease. As a separate analysis, the report also sought to evaluate the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada. The specific research questions addressed were thus:
What is the clinical utility of vitamin D testing in the average risk population and in subjects with kidney disease?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the average risk population in Canada?
What is the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in patients with kidney disease in Canada?
Clinical utility was defined as the ability to improve bone health outcomes with the focus on the average risk population (excluding those with osteoporosis) and patients with kidney disease.
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on July 17th, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1998 until July 17th, 2009. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria, full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search. Articles with unknown eligibility were reviewed with a second clinical epidemiologist, then a group of epidemiologists until consensus was established. The quality of evidence was assessed as high, moderate, low or very low according to GRADE methodology.
Observational studies that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada in the population of interest were included based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria listed below. The baseline values were used in this report in the case of interventional studies that evaluated the effect of vitamin D intake on serum levels. Studies published in grey literature were included if no studies published in the peer-reviewed literature were identified for specific outcomes or subgroups.
Considering that vitamin D status may be affected by factors such as latitude, sun exposure, food fortification, among others, the search focused on prevalence studies published in Canada. In cases where no Canadian prevalence studies were identified, the decision was made to include studies from the United States, given the similar policies in vitamin D food fortification and recommended daily intake.
Inclusion Criteria
Studies published in English
Publications that reported the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada
Studies that included subjects from the general population or with kidney disease
Studies in children or adults
Studies published between January 1998 and July 17th 2009
Exclusion Criteria
Studies that included subjects defined according to a specific disease other than kidney disease
Letters, comments, and editorials
Studies that measured the serum vitamin D levels but did not report the percentage of subjects with serum levels below a given threshold
Outcomes of Interest
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 25 nmol/L
Prevalence of serum vitamin D less than 40 to 50 nmol/L
Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D was the metabolite used to assess vitamin D status. Results from adult and children studies were reported separately. Subgroup analyses according to factors that affect serum vitamin D levels (e.g., seasonal effects, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake) were reported if enough information was provided in the studies
Quality of Evidence
The quality of the prevalence studies was based on the method of subject recruitment and sampling, possibility of selection bias, and generalizability to the source population. The overall quality of the trials was examined according to the GRADE Working Group criteria.
Summary of Findings
Fourteen prevalence studies examining Canadian adults and children met the eligibility criteria. With the exception of one longitudinal study, the studies had a cross-sectional design. Two studies were conducted among Canadian adults with renal disease but none studied Canadian children with renal disease (though three such US studies were included). No systematic reviews or health technology assessments that evaluated the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canada were identified. Two studies were published in grey literature, consisting of a Canadian survey designed to measure serum vitamin D levels and a study in infants presented as an abstract at a conference. Also included were the results of vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories in Ontario between October 2008 and September 2009 (provided by the Ontario Association of Medical Laboratories).
Different threshold levels were used in the studies, thus we reported the percentage of subjects with serum levels of between 25 and 30 nmol/L and between 37.5 and 50 nmol/L. Some studies stratified the results according to factors affecting vitamin D status and two used multivariate models to investigate the effects of these characteristics (including age, season, BMI, vitamin D intake, skin pigmentation, and season) on serum 25(OH)D levels. It’s unclear, however, if these studies were adequately powered for these subgroup analyses.
Study participants generally consisted of healthy, community-dwelling subjects and most excluded individuals with conditions or medications that alter vitamin D or bone metabolism, such as kidney or liver disease. Although the studies were conducted in different parts of Canada, fewer were performed in Northern latitudes, i.e. above 53°N, which is equivalent to the city of Edmonton.
Serum vitamin D levels of < 25 to 30 nmol/L were observed in 0% to 25.5% of the subjects included in five studies; the weighted average was 3.8% (95% CI: 3.0, 4.6). The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that approximately 5% of the subjects had serum levels below 29.5 nmol/L. The results of over 600,000 vitamin D tests performed in Ontarian community laboratories between October 2008 and September 2009 showed that 2.6% of adults (> 18 years) had serum levels < 25 nmol/L.
The prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below 37.5-50 nmol/L reported among studies varied widely, ranging from 8% to 73.6% with a weighted average of 22.5%. The preliminary results of the CHMS survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects had serum levels below 37 to 48 nmol/L. The results of the vitamin D tests performed in community laboratories showed that 10% to 25% of the individuals had serum levels between 39 and 50 nmol/L.
In an attempt to explain this inter-study variation, the study results were stratified according to factors affecting serum vitamin D levels, as summarized below. These results should be interpreted with caution as none were adjusted for other potential confounders. Adequately powered multivariate analyses would be necessary to determine the contribution of risk factors to lower serum 25(OH)D levels.
Seasonal variation
Three adult studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in different seasons observed a trend towards a higher prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L during the winter and spring months, specifically 21% to 39%, compared to 8% to 14% in the summer. The weighted average was 23.6% over the winter/spring months and 9.6% over summer. The difference between the seasons was not statistically significant in one study and not reported in the other two studies.
Skin Pigmentation
Four studies observed a trend toward a higher prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L in subjects with darker skin pigmentation compared to those with lighter skin pigmentation, with weighted averages of 46.8% among adults with darker skin colour and 15.9% among those with fairer skin.
Vitamin D intake and serum levels
Four adult studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels according to vitamin D intake and showed an overall trend toward a lower prevalence of serum levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L with higher levels of vitamin D intake. One study observed a dose-response relationship between higher vitamin D intake from supplements, diet (milk), and sun exposure (results not adjusted for other variables). It was observed that subjects taking 50 to 400 IU or > 400 IU of vitamin D per day had a 6% and 3% prevalence of serum vitamin D level < 40 nmol/L, respectively, versus 29% in subjects not on vitamin D supplementation. Similarly, among subjects drinking one or two glasses of milk per day, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was found to be 15%, versus 6% in those who drink more than two glasses of milk per day and 21% among those who do not drink milk. On the other hand, one study observed little variation in serum vitamin D levels during winter according to milk intake, with the proportion of subjects exhibiting vitamin D levels of < 40 nmol/L being 21% among those drinking 0-2 glasses per day, 26% among those drinking > 2 glasses, and 20% among non-milk drinkers.
The overall quality of evidence for the studies conducted among adults was deemed to be low, although it was considered moderate for the subgroups of skin pigmentation and seasonal variation.
Newborn, Children and Adolescents
Five Canadian studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in newborns, children, and adolescents. In four of these, it was found that between 0 and 36% of children exhibited deficiency across age groups with a weighted average of 6.4%. The results of over 28,000 vitamin D tests performed in children 0 to 18 years old in Ontario laboratories (Oct. 2008 to Sept. 2009) showed that 4.4% had serum levels of < 25 nmol/L.
According to two studies, 32% of infants 24 to 30 months old and 35.3% of newborns had serum vitamin D levels of < 50 nmol/L. Two studies of children 2 to 16 years old reported that 24.5% and 34% had serum vitamin D levels below 37.5 to 40 nmol/L. In both studies, older children exhibited a higher prevalence than younger children, with weighted averages 34.4% and 10.3%, respectively. The overall weighted average of the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 37.5 to 50 nmol/L among pediatric studies was 25.8%. The preliminary results of the Canadian survey showed that between 10% and 25% of subjects between 6 and 11 years (N= 435) had serum levels below 50 nmol/L, while for those 12 to 19 years, 25% to 50% exhibited serum vitamin D levels below 50 nmol/L.
The effects of season, skin pigmentation, and vitamin D intake were not explored in Canadian pediatric studies. A Canadian surveillance study did, however, report 104 confirmed cases1 (2.9 cases per 100,000 children) of vitamin D-deficient rickets among Canadian children age 1 to 18 between 2002 and 2004, 57 (55%) of which from Ontario. The highest incidence occurred among children living in the North, i.e., the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. In 92 (89%) cases, skin pigmentation was categorized as intermediate to dark, 98 (94%) had been breastfed, and 25 (24%) were offspring of immigrants to Canada. There were no cases of rickets in children receiving ≥ 400 IU VD supplementation/day.
Overall, the quality of evidence of the studies of children was considered very low.
Kidney Disease
Two studies evaluated serum vitamin D levels in Canadian adults with kidney disease. The first included 128 patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 5, 38% of which had serum vitamin D levels of < 37.5 nmol/L (measured between April and July). This is higher than what was reported in Canadian studies of the general population during the summer months (i.e. between 8% and 14%). In the second, which examined 419 subjects who had received a renal transplantation (mean time since transplantation: 7.2 ± 6.4 years), the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels < 40 nmol/L was 27.3%. The authors concluded that the prevalence observed in the study population was similar to what is expected in the general population.
No studies evaluating serum vitamin D levels in Canadian pediatric patients with kidney disease could be identified, although three such US studies among children with chronic kidney disease stages 1 to 5 were. The mean age varied between 10.7 and 12.5 years in two studies but was not reported in the third. Across all three studies, the prevalence of serum vitamin D levels below the range of 37.5 to 50 nmol/L varied between 21% and 39%, which is not considerably different from what was observed in studies of healthy Canadian children (24% to 35%).
Overall, the quality of evidence in adults and children with kidney disease was considered very low.
Clinical Utility of Vitamin D Testing
A high quality comprehensive systematic review published in August 2007 evaluated the association between serum vitamin D levels and different bone health outcomes in different age groups. A total of 72 studies were included. The authors observed that there was a trend towards improvement in some bone health outcomes with higher serum vitamin D levels. Nevertheless, precise thresholds for improved bone health outcomes could not be defined across age groups. Further, no new studies on the association were identified during an updated systematic review on vitamin D published in July 2009.
With regards to non-bone health outcomes, there is no high or even moderate quality evidence that supports the effectiveness of vitamin D in outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality. Even if there is any residual uncertainty, there is no evidence that testing vitamin D levels encourages adherence to Health Canada’s guidelines for vitamin D intake. A normal serum vitamin D threshold required to prevent non-bone health related conditions cannot be resolved until a causal effect or correlation has been demonstrated between vitamin D levels and these conditions. This is as an ongoing research issue around which there is currently too much uncertainty to base any conclusions that would support routine vitamin D testing.
For patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), there is again no high or moderate quality evidence supporting improved outcomes through the use of calcitriol or vitamin D analogs. In the absence of such data, the authors of the guidelines for CKD patients consider it best practice to maintain serum calcium and phosphate at normal levels, while supplementation with active vitamin D should be considered if serum PTH levels are elevated. As previously stated, the authors of guidelines for CKD patients believe that there is not enough evidence to support routine vitamin D [25(OH)D] testing. According to what is stated in the guidelines, decisions regarding the commencement or discontinuation of treatment with calcitriol or vitamin D analogs should be based on serum PTH, calcium, and phosphate levels.
Limitations associated with the evidence of vitamin D testing include ambiguities in the definition of an ‘adequate threshold level’ and both inter- and intra- assay variability. The MAS considers both the lack of a consensus on the target serum vitamin D levels and assay limitations directly affect and undermine the clinical utility of testing. The evidence supporting the clinical utility of vitamin D testing is thus considered to be of very low quality.
Daily vitamin D intake, either through diet or supplementation, should follow Health Canada’s recommendations for healthy individuals of different age groups. For those with medical conditions such as renal disease, liver disease, and malabsorption syndromes, and for those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, physician guidance should be followed with respect to both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
Studies indicate that vitamin D, alone or in combination with calcium, may decrease the risk of fractures and falls among older adults.
There is no high or moderate quality evidence to support the effectiveness of vitamin D in other outcomes such as cancer, cardiovascular outcomes, and all-cause mortality.
Studies suggest that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in Canadian adults and children is relatively low (approximately 5%), and between 10% and 25% have serum levels below 40 to 50 nmol/L (based on very low to low grade evidence).
Given the limitations associated with serum vitamin D measurement, ambiguities in the definition of a ‘target serum level’, and the availability of clear guidelines on vitamin D supplementation from Health Canada, vitamin D testing is not warranted for the average risk population.
Health Canada has issued recommendations regarding the adequate daily intake of vitamin D, but current studies suggest that the mean dietary intake is below these recommendations. Accordingly, Health Canada’s guidelines and recommendations should be promoted.
Based on a moderate level of evidence, individuals with darker skin pigmentation appear to have a higher risk of low serum vitamin D levels than those with lighter skin pigmentation and therefore may need to be specially targeted with respect to optimum vitamin D intake. The cause-effect of this association is currently unclear.
Individuals with medical conditions such as renal and liver disease, osteoporosis, and malabsorption syndromes, as well as those taking medications that may affect vitamin D absorption/metabolism, should follow their physician’s guidance concerning both vitamin D testing and supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3377517  PMID: 23074397
16.  Dermatology in the military field: What physicians should know? 
In the civilian dermatological setting, the top 5 skin diseases usually seen are eczema/dermatitis, acne, benign skin tumors, viral infections and pigmentary disorders. In comparison, the top 5 skin conditions encountered in the military sector are usually fungal infections, eczema/dermatitis, insect bite reactions, bacterial infections and acne. This is not surprising as military personnel, due to the special environment and vocations they are in, are prone to getting eczema as heat, sweating and wearing of the military uniform aggravate the condition. Fungal infections are common in those who wear the army boots. Insect bite reactions are not an uncommon sight among those who have to go to the jungle regularly for outfield training. Grass allergy or intolerance, contact dermatitis or acneiform eruption due to the application of military camouflage cream on the face, contact dermatitis to insect repellents, and military uniform allergy and intolerance are amongst the commonest dermatological problems encountered in the military field, and physicians should recognize them, investigate and manage these problems accordingly. Lastly, a diagnosis not to be missed in the military field is cutaneous melioidosis, especially when a military personnel presents with a non-healing ulcer.
PMCID: PMC3856293  PMID: 24340268
Dermatology; Skin diseases; Military
17.  Prevalence of dermatoses and skin sensitisation associated with use of pesticides in fruit farmers of southern Taiwan. 
OBJECTIVES: Agricultural workers are known to have occupational skin diseases. The prevalence and pattern of skin diseases are unknown in Taiwanese fruit farmers. The objective of this study is to determine the work exposure, prevalence of skin diseases, and sensitivity to common skin allergens and agricultural chemicals in fruit farmers of southern Taiwan. METHODS: 122 fruit farmers who regularly prepared and sprayed pesticides and a group of 63 printing press workers with no known exposure to pesticides were examined and patch tested with common skin allergens and agricultural chemicals. The farmers were also interviewed for their work habits, use of protective clothing, and exposure to pesticides. RESULTS: Most farmers reported regular use of hat, boots, and mask, but not gloves, raincoat, and goggles. This resulted in frequent skin contact with pesticides especially on the hands and face. About 30% of farmers had hand dermatitis, and more than two thirds had pigmentation and thickening on the hands. Fungal infection of the skin was noted in a quarter of subjects. By patch test, farmers and the printing press workers had a similar rate of sensitivity to common skin allergens. 40% of farmers were sensitive to agricultural chemical allergens, which was about twofold higher than that of the comparison group. Farmers were most frequently sensitive to Captofol, Folpet, and Captan which were associated with dermatitis on the volar aspects of the hands. CONCLUSIONS: Fruit farmers in southern Taiwan had a high prevalence of skin diseases related to use of pesticides, and appropriate protective measures and work practices should be taken to prevent such problems.
PMCID: PMC1128501  PMID: 8758040
18.  Nonlesional skin in atopic dermatitis is seemingly healthy skin – observations using noninvasive methods 
Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic and relapsing skin disorder, which is characterized by abnormal skin barrier function within the entire skin surface. Several noninvasive bioengineering methods have been commonly used to quantify disease severity. High-frequency ultrasonography (HF-USG) is an important contribution to this field.
To evaluate noninvolved skin during the external treatment in relation to involved regions in patients with AD skin using noninvasive methods.
Material and methods
Transepidermal water loss (TEWL), capacitance and erythema assessment and HF-USG were performed in 55 AD patients within 2 regions (involved and uninvolved skin) before and after therapy. The clinical severity of the disease process was based on the eczema area and severity index (EASI) score. A control group consisting of 15 subjects was also included.
On the basis of 4 bioengineering methods our study revealed that uninvolved skin in AD presents subclinical disturbances and significantly changes during therapy. The HF-USG detects inflammation in the upper dermis in AD patients in the form of a hypoechoic band, which may also be observed to a lesser extent within normal-appearing skin.
Nonlesional skin differs significantly from lesional skin in AD and from skin of healthy subjects. Noninvasive methods are able to measure subclinical skin disturbances within normal-appearing skin, which are not evaluated using standard clinical scores. They are objective and may facilitate communication between different research groups.
PMCID: PMC3796717  PMID: 24130632
atopic dermatitis; seemingly healthy skin; transepidermal water loss; capacitance; high frequency ultrasonography; skin ultrasonography
19.  A report of clinical trial conducted on Toto ointment and soap products. 
OBJECTIVE: The efficacy of Toto ointment and soap on common skin disorders was tested. METHODOLOGY: A cohort of Nigerians with common skin conditions such as fungal and bacterial skin infections, scabies, acne vulgaris, and dandruff were selected and followed for a period of 12 weeks. The study is a randomized, comparative, prospective, blinded observational study. Following a placebo run in/wash out period, patients were given either a Toto ointment or soap, or a combination of these, or sulfur ointment alone. Soap use was preferred in patients with Tinea capitis more than patients with any other superficial skin condition for technical reasons--such as ease of application of the soap lather. Expressed preference for either the soap or the cream was at times taken into consideration. Cure rate, adverse drug effects and acceptability of the products were assessed. RESULTS: Out of the 595 patients with common skin diseases selected for the study, 446 (74.9%) had fungal infections, while 64 (10.8%) had scabies infestation. A total of 47 (7.9%) patients had bacterial skin infections, 36 (6.1%) had acne vulgaris, and two (0.3%) had dandruff. At the end of the treatment period, out of the 129 patients with fungal infections treated with Toto ointment alone, 92 (71.3)% were successfully treated; while 41 (87.2%) out of the 47 patients with scabies were successfully treated with Toto ointment alone. Although few patients were seen with bacterial skin infections during the study period, these patients responded well to the ointment, the soap or a combination of the two. Overall, the combination of Toto ointment and soap had a better clinical success rate on all diseases when compared to sulfur ointment alone. The study has shown the efficacy and tolerability of Toto products (skin ointment and soap) in the management of common skin disorders. CONCLUSION: Toto ointment and soap are particularly efficacious in the management of common skin conditions such as fungal and bacterial skin infections, scabies, acne vulgaris and dandruff.
PMCID: PMC2594367  PMID: 12656456
20.  Cutaneous Manifestations in Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease on Maintenance Hemodialysis 
ISRN Dermatology  2012;2012:679619.
Cutaneous disorders can precede or follow the initiation of hemodialysis treatment. We evaluated the prevalence of various dermatological manifestations in patients undergoing hemodialysis at least twice a week for minimum of three months at our center. Patients were excluded if they were undergoing hemodialysis less than twice a week or on hemodialysis secondary to ESRD following graft dysfunction. One hundred and forty-three patients were evaluated. Among them, there were 113 male and 30 females. Among the skin changes, pruritus accounted for 56%, Xerosis was observed in 52%, Diffuse blackish hyper pigmentation was seen in 40%. Skin infections was seen in 53% of patients, of these fungal, bacterial and viral infections were 27.2%, 14.6%, and 11.2%, respectively. Kyrle's disease was observed only in 6.9%. Other skin manifestations include eczema 4.8%, psoriasis 2.7%, and drug rash 2.1%. Nail changes were observed in 46 patients of whom 27 patients had onychomycosis. Other changes include discoloration, onycholysis, and splinter hemorrhages. Hair changes were observed in 21.7%. Mucosal changes were seen in 27.3%. In our study, pruritus, xerosis, and pigmentation were higher among skin changes. Recognition and management of some of these dermatological manifestations vastly reduce the morbidity and improve the quality of life.
PMCID: PMC3398619  PMID: 22830039
21.  Oculocutaneous albinism 
Oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) is a group of inherited disorders of melanin biosynthesis characterized by a generalized reduction in pigmentation of hair, skin and eyes. The prevalence of all forms of albinism varies considerably worldwide and has been estimated at approximately 1/17,000, suggesting that about 1 in 70 people carry a gene for OCA. The clinical spectrum of OCA ranges, with OCA1A being the most severe type with a complete lack of melanin production throughout life, while the milder forms OCA1B, OCA2, OCA3 and OCA4 show some pigment accumulation over time. Clinical manifestations include various degrees of congenital nystagmus, iris hypopigmentation and translucency, reduced pigmentation of the retinal pigment epithelium, foveal hypoplasia, reduced visual acuity usually (20/60 to 20/400) and refractive errors, color vision impairment and prominent photophobia. Misrouting of the optic nerves is a characteristic finding, resulting in strabismus and reduced stereoscopic vision. The degree of skin and hair hypopigmentation varies with the type of OCA. The incidence of skin cancer may be increased. All four types of OCA are inherited as autosomal recessive disorders. At least four genes are responsible for the different types of the disease (TYR, OCA2, TYRP1 and MATP). Diagnosis is based on clinical findings of hypopigmentation of the skin and hair, in addition to the characteristic ocular symptoms. Due to the clinical overlap between the OCA forms, molecular diagnosis is necessary to establish the gene defect and OCA subtype. Molecular genetic testing of TYR and OCA2 is available on a clinical basis, while, at present, analysis of TYRP1 and MATP is on research basis only. Differential diagnosis includes ocular albinism, Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, Chediak-Higashi syndrome, Griscelli syndrome, and Waardenburg syndrome type II. Carrier detection and prenatal diagnosis are possible when the disease causing mutations have been identified in the family. Glasses (possibly bifocals) and dark glasses or photocromic lenses may offer sufficient help for reduced visual activity and photophobia. Correction of strabismus and nystagmus is necessary and sunscreens are recommended. Regular skin checks for early detection of skin cancer should be offered. Persons with OCA have normal lifespan, development, intelligence and fertility.
PMCID: PMC2211462  PMID: 17980020
22.  Effect of Increased Pigmentation on the Antifibrotic Response of Human Skin to UV-A1 Phototherapy 
Archives of dermatology  2008;144(7):851-858.
To investigate the efficacy, potential limitations, and biological mechanisms of UV-A1 phototherapy for skin sclerosis due to collagen deposition disorders.
Before-and-after trial of UV-A1 irradiation of sclerotic skin; in vivo biochemical analyses after UV-A1 irradiation of normal skin.
Academic referral center.
Patients with morphea/scleroderma or sclerodermoid graft-vs-host disease and volunteers without skin disease.
Sclerotic skin was treated with high-dose (130 J/cm2; n=12) or medium-dose (65 J/cm2; n=6) UV-A1 phototherapy 3 times per week for 14 weeks; normal skin was treated with UV-A1 irradiation at various doses and frequencies, with biopsies performed afterwards.
Main Outcome Measures
In sclerotic skin, induration was clinically assessed using a scoring scale. In normal skin, quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used to assess antifibrotic responses, defined as decreased type I and type III procollagen and increased matrix metalloproteinase levels.
In patients with sclerotic skin treated with high-dose UV-A1 irradiation, clinical scores for induration modestly decreased. To investigate what factors prevented further improvement (ie, complete clearance), normal skin with light pigmentation was exposed to UV-A1 irradiation (70–150 J/cm2) and was assessed for antifibrotic responses. A single high-dose exposure (110–150 J/cm2) elicited substantial antifibrotic responses and induced skin darkening. This skin darkening attenuated responses to subsequent UV-A1 exposures and was dose dependent. Thus, to minimize skin darkening, additional patients with sclerotic skin were treated with medium-dose UV-A1 phototherapy, which was no less effective than high-dose therapy.
Clinical responses of sclerotic skin to UV-A1 phototherapy were modest because of UV-A1–induced skin darkening, which is photoprotective and attenuates antifibrotic responses.
PMCID: PMC2956589  PMID: 18645136
23.  Skin infections in male pupils of primary schools in Al Ahsa 
To determine the prevalence, the nature, and the possible socio-demographic risk factors involved in the development of common transmissible skin disorders (TSD) among the studied population.
Materials and Methods:
A cross-sectional consecutive survey was carried out from November 15, 2008 to May 14, 2009 in Al-Ahsa governorate. This study included 1337 male primary school children. Data were collected using the following tools: Socio-demographics and hygienic habits according to pre-established forms and a thorough dermatological examination of all the included children.
The prevalence of TSD was 27.15% with a statistically significant difference according to rural/urban locations (33.74% vs. 22.27%). Fungal infections were the leading diseases (9.1%) followed by bacterial infections (8.9%), parasitic infestations (4.3%), and viral infections (4.1%). TSD were significantly more frequent in students whose fathers have a primary or preparatory educational status and in the students having the habit to play barefooted.
Our study found that TSD was relatively frequent among male primary school students in Al-Ahsa. Our study has several limitations. One major limitation is that female primary school students were excluded from the study. Despite this major limitation, we hope the findings may be useful in planning health care programs for Saudi children with the hope of reducing the prevalence of TSD in the future.
PMCID: PMC3663166  PMID: 23723733
Childhood; skin infections; skin parasitic infestations
24.  Vaccinia Virus-Specific Molecular Signature in Atopic Dermatitis Skin 
Eczema vaccinatum (EV), a disseminated viral skin infection, is a life threatening complication of vaccinia virus (VV) inoculation in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and is thought to be associated with a defective innate immune response. However, the precise mechanism(s) and key factor(s) of EV are unknown.
Given that patients with psoriasis, another inflammatory skin disorder, are not susceptible to EV, we compared the global transcriptional response of skin to VV in healthy, psoriatic, and AD individuals focusing on AD specific genes. We hypothesized that differences in the transcriptional response to VV between AD and psoriatic or healthy individuals would identify a defective pathway(s) that might be associated with the development of EV.
Gene expression profiling of sham-treated and VV-treated unaffected skin explants from AD (n=12), psoriatic (n=12), or healthy (n=13) individuals were generated using U133_Plus2 (54613 probe sets) GeneChips and analyzed using GCOS_1.4/SAM_2.1/MAPPFinder_2.0 pipeline.
Sixty-seven genes were significantly affected by VV in AD, but not in psoriatic and healthy skin. Genes associated with defense response, response to wounding, and immune response were the most affected by VV in AD skin. All genes in these ontologies were downregulated including innate immunity genes LTB4R, ORM1, F2R, C9, and LBP. These findings were confirmed by real-time PCR and validated by PubMatrix analysis. ORM1, TLR4, and NLRP1 were also linked to AD severity.
This study identified groups of innate immunity genes that are associated with the aberrant response of AD skin to VV and represent potential targets for EV pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2814071  PMID: 20109744
Eczema vaccinatum; vaccinia virus; atopic dermatitis; genomics
25.  Gene-Environment Interaction in the Onset of Eczema in Infancy: Filaggrin Loss-of-Function Mutations Enhanced by Neonatal Cat Exposure  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(6):e131.
Loss-of-function variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) are major determinants of eczema. We hypothesized that weakening of the physical barrier in FLG-deficient individuals may potentiate the effect of environmental exposures. Therefore, we investigated whether there is an interaction between FLG loss-of-function mutations with environmental exposures (pets and dust mites) in relation to the development of eczema.
Methods and Findings
We used data obtained in early life in a high-risk birth cohort in Denmark and replicated the findings in an unselected birth cohort in the United Kingdom. Primary outcome was age of onset of eczema; environmental exposures included pet ownership and mite and pet allergen levels. In Copenhagen (n = 379), FLG mutation increased the risk of eczema during the first year of life (hazard ratio [HR] 2.26, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.27–4.00, p = 0.005), with a further increase in risk related to cat exposure at birth amongst children with FLG mutation (HR 11.11, 95% CI 3.79–32.60, p < 0.0001); dog exposure was moderately protective (HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.24–1.01, p = 0.05), but not related to FLG genotype. In Manchester (n = 503) an independent and significant association of the development of eczema by age 12 mo with FLG genotype was confirmed (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.13–3.36, p = 0.02). In addition, the risk increased because of the interaction of cat ownership at birth and FLG genotype (HR 3.82, 95% CI 1.35–10.81, p = 0.01), with no significant effect of the interaction with dog ownership (HR 0.59, 95% CI 0.16–2.20, p = 0.43). Mite-allergen had no effects in either cohort. The observed effects were independent of sensitisation.
We have demonstrated a significant interaction between FLG loss-of-function main mutations (501x and 2282del4) and cat ownership at birth on the development of early-life eczema in two independent birth cohorts. Our data suggest that cat but not dog ownership substantially increases the risk of eczema within the first year of life in children with FLG loss-of-function variants, but not amongst those without. FLG-deficient individuals may need to avoid cats but not dogs in early life.
In two independent cohorts of children, Hans Bisgaard and colleagues show an association between mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) and ownership of cats, but not dogs, with development of eczema.
Editors' Summary
Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, red, and itchy patches on the skin. Eczema is associated with asthma and allergy, though allergy rarely plays a role in development or severity of eczema. Eczema usually begins during infancy, typically on the face, scalp, neck, extensor sides of the forearms, and legs. Up to one in five infants develops eczema, but in more than half of them, the condition improves or disappears completely before they are 15 years old. If eczema persists into adulthood, it usually affects the face and the skin inside the knees and elbows. There is no cure for eczema but it can be controlled by avoiding anything that makes its symptoms worse. These triggers include irritants such as wool, strong soaps, perfumes, and dry environments. A good skin-care routine and frequent moisturizing can also help to keep eczema under control, but in many cases, corticosteroid creams and ointments may be necessary to reduce inflammation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Eczema tends to run in families. This suggests that eczema is caused by genetic factors as well as by environmental factors. Recently, researchers discovered that two common “loss-of-function” variants in the gene encoding filaggrin (FLG) predispose people to eczema. People who inherit one or two defective genes make no filaggrin, a protein that normally forms a physical barrier in the skin that protects the body from potentially harmful substances in the environment. Might the weakening of this barrier in filaggrin-deficient individuals affect their responses to environmental substances to which the skin is exposed? In this study, the researchers test this potential explanation for how genetic and environmental factors (in particular, exposure to pets) might interact to determine an individual's chances of developing eczema.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To test their hypothesis, the researchers studied two independent groups of infants during their first year of life—a high-risk group consisting of infants born in Copenhagen, Denmark to mothers with asthma and a group of infants born to women from the general population in Manchester, United Kingdom. The researchers determined which FLG variants each child had inherited and classified those with either one or two defective copies of FLG as having an FLG mutation. They determined pet exposure in early life by asking whether a dog or a cat was living in the parental home when the child was born (“pet ownership”) and then analyzed how these genetic and environmental factors affected the age of onset of eczema. In both groups, children with FLG mutations were twice as likely to develop eczema during the first year of life as children without FLG mutations. For children without FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth had no effect on eczema risk but for children with FLG mutations, cat ownership at birth (but not dog ownership) further increased the risk of developing eczema.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that FLG mutations and cat ownership at birth interact to determine the chances of a child developing eczema during the first year of life. They provide support, therefore, for the researchers' suggestion that the weakening of the skin's protective barrier that is caused by filaggrin deficiency increases the child's susceptibility to factors associated with cat exposure. Only a small number of children in this study carried FLG mutations and were exposed to cats from birth, so these findings need confirming in independent studies. In addition, it is still not clear how exposure to cats drives the development of eczema. Allergy was not the mechanism as the FLG-deficient children exposed to cat and who developed eczema did not develop cat-specific immunoglobin E antibodies. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that, to reduce their risk of developing eczema, filaggrin-deficient individuals should avoid cats (but not dogs) during the first few months of life.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus Encyclopedia has a page on eczema (in English and Spanish); links to further information are provided by MedlinePlus
EczemaNet is a comprehensive online information resource about eczema provided by the American Academy of Dermatologists
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases provides information on eczema
The UK National Health Service Direct health encyclopedia provides information for patients on eczema (in several languages)
The Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and Manchester Asthma and Allergy Study (MAAS) Web sites provide more information about the children involved in this research
PMCID: PMC2504043  PMID: 18578563

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