Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Background Infective dermatitis (ID) is a rare dermatological condition of childhood that has been linked to human T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma virus type 1 (HTLV-1). Most cases have been reported in the Caribbean. Although several million people are estimated to be infected by HTLV-1 in sub-Saharan Africa, no case of ID has been reported in this area.Objectives To identify and to describe cases of HTLV-1-associated ID in Senegal, West Africa.Methods Over a 3-year period, a serological test for HTLV-1 was performed at a dermatological centre in Dakar, Senegal, in children who presented with a picture suggestive of ID. Complementary haematological, immunological and virological investigations were performed in infected children and in their mothers.Results Five patients with typical HTLV-1-associated ID were identified, of ages 17, 5, 4, 3 and 3 years; two patients belonged to the same family. They all presented with repeated flares of superinfected dermatitis involving typical sites of ID (mainly the scalp, external ears, nares and eyelids), associated with nasal discharge, and less commonly with a nonspecific papular rash on the face or trunk. Although oral antibiotic therapy always gave effective control of the symptoms, recurrences were constant. A persisting dry dermatitis of the retroauricular folds was common between flares. Infection in the oldest patient was associated with a chronic adult T-cell leukaemia/lymphoma. The mothers of three patients, and the grandmother of another, were all infected by HTLV-1 strains belonging to the Cosmopolitan molecular subtype, with a perfect nucleotide identity of long-terminal repeat and env gp21 genomic regions within each family.Conclusions We present the clinical and virological features of the first reported African cases of HTLV-1-associated ID. When compared with data from the Caribbean, infectious features seemed particularly prominent. ID appears to be overlooked in sub-Saharan Africa, where it might be easily confused with common pyoderma. Breast feeding appears to be the origin of HTLV-1 contamination of the children.
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