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Tinea capitis (ringworm) is a rare infection that is caused by fungi and affects the scalp of the head. The Argentine Association of Microbiology issued an alert to warn that there is an outbreak of cases of tinea capitis in “people who go to barbershops or hairdressers to get haircuts that involve shaving.”

Tinea capitis

From August 2021 to August 2022, a retrospective study of patients with tinea capitis who had consulted different health centers in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, (CABA).

In 27 of 37 cases, Trichophyton tonsurans was recovered, with a male: female ratio (8.2:1), the average age was 15 years, with a range between 4 and 27 years. Of these patients, 60% had attended barbershops, 13% had had close contact with people who went to barbershops.

Most of the patients presented ovoid lesions, macules or erythematous scaly plaques on the scalp, pruritic, compatible with tinea, in only 2 cases presented Celso’s kerion (inflammatory lesion).

From the Mycology Commission of the GCBA (Government of the City of Buenos Aires) surveillance of dermatophytosis is being carried out. The Preliminary data between September and November 2022 indicate that 66% (92/140) of scalp samples recovered T. tonsurans. The nexus epidemiological in 71% (66/92) was attendance at barbershops or close contact with patients who attended barbershops.

This increase in cases of tinea capitis in young adults due to T. tonsurans as emerging pathogen in CABA and the metropolitan area, has as a common factor the use of razors in barbershops or the contact of patients with injuries coming from the same.

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The identification of affected patients, accurate and rapid diagnosis with a precise therapy could contribute to the interruption of the chain of infection that is of great importance in this mycosis.

Similar type outbreaks have also been reported in Spain and Germany.

Given the current outbreak in Argentina, “it is important that both the population and the health teams are attentive to the symptoms of ringworm to make the consultation on time and access early diagnosis,” Dr. Graciela Manzur, chief of the Medical Chair and Dermatology Division of the Hospital de Clínicas “José de San Martín” of the University of Buenos Aires.

“By being diagnosed early, patients can access treatment and control the infection in one to two months. If they are late, there may be an area without hair. It is key not to self-medicate or delay the consultation, ”Manzur emphasized.

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Meanwhile, Gustavo Giusano, a member of the clinical mycology subcommittee of the Argentine Association of Microbiology, stressed that barbershops and hairdressers should take into account different measures to reduce the spread of the fungus that causes tinea capitis.

“Combs, brushes, and other utensils that come into contact with the skin or scalp should be cleaned with detergents and running, running water each time a customer is served. Once clean, they must be stored individually wrapped and in containers made of easy-to-clean material”, advised Giusano.

It is also recommended that blades and shaving material be single use. In the case of using material that is not disposable, such as certain accessories for shaving machines, they must be cleaned, packaged, sterilized and stored, to avoid the transmission of fungi from one person to another, commented Giusano, who is a researcher in mycology at Conicet.

“In barbershops and hairdressers, they should have discarding containers to eliminate disposable cutting material, such as blades, razors, among others. They are rigid, waterproof containers with lids”, explained the scientist.