Cladosporium scalp infection
An 11-year-old healthy red-haired girl presented with a 3-year history of hair loss and mild pruritus of her scalp. She had previously been diagnosed with trichotillomania. Cutaneous examination showed scant hair loss with neither crusting nor scaly lesions. The scalp hair was diffusely thin, dry, and brittle on the frontal, mid-parietal, and anterior occipital scalp (Figure 1A). A pull test was negative, and a significant number of hair shafts were not detached on repeated traction. Closer examination using a dermatoscope showed follicles with broken hair shafts. The dermatoscopic evaluation also showed frequent pinpoint black dots scattered among the terminal hair shafts at their bases. No scale, scar, or inflammatory changes were seen in the involved areas (Figure 1B). A 20% potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation of material obtained after gentle scrapping of the black dots on the scalp provided fragments of hair fibers containing aggregates of pigmented yeast forms (Figure 2A) and brown septate hyphae (Figure 2B). Two samples were sent for fungal culture and both showed dark brown colonies on the surface and black coloration when viewed from the reverse side (Figure 3A). Lactophenol cotton blue preparation of the fungal colonies revealed long and septate hyphae with laterally branching conidiophores ending in round-shaped conidia (Figure 3B). The microorganism was identified by the reference laboratory as Cladosporium species. The conidia were usually noted to be single-celled with a distinct dark hilum. They also exhibited prominent attachment scars that caused the cells to appear "shield-shaped." These features were considered to be diagnostic for Cladosporium; however, the reference laboratory could not identify the organism to the species level. The girl's Cladosporium scalp infection was treated with itraconazole at an oral daily dose of 200 mg for 2 months. Upon re-evaluation, she showed significant improvement with not only discontinuation of her alopecia and new hair growth (Figure 4A), but also an absence of broken hair shafts and the dark pigmentation found initially at their base when her scalp was examined using a dermatoscope (Figure 4B). In addition, a new KOH preparation did not reveal the presence of conidia.
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