Comparison of hairbrush, toothbrush and cotton swab methods for diagnosing asymptomatic dermatophyte scalp carriage.J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2008 Mar; 22(3):356-62.JE
Tinea capitis may also present as a minimal infection, termed carrier state. Anthropophilic dermatophytes (i.e. Trichophyton tonsurans and Trichophyton violaceum) have been generally associated with high rates of asymptomatic carriage.
The aim of this study was to compare the efficacy of the hairbrush, toothbrush and cotton swab methods for diagnosing scalp carriage as well as to determine the prevalence and related dermatophyte species for both asymptomatic and symptomatic tinea capitis in Adana Province, Turkey.
PATIENTS AND METHODS
A screening study was carried out between February 2006 and May 2006, covering three schools and a total of 1560 children with 857 (54.9%) boys and 703 (45.1%) girls, aged between 7 and 17 years (10.6 +/- 2.3 years). The diagnosis was made by using three of the methods mentioned above with inoculation onto Sabouraud glucose agar.
Symptomatic tinea capitis was not detected in the study; however, 21 (1.3%) asymptomatic carriers, with 9 (42.9%) boys and 12 (57.1%) girls, aged 7 to 13 years (9.7 +/- 1.9 years) were detected. The diagnosis was made via hairbrush in 13, via cotton swab in 4 and via toothbrush in 4. The mean age (P = 0.075) and gender differences were found to be statistically insignificant (P = 0.26). The most common isolated species was Trichophyton mentagrophytes var. mentagrophytes (90.4%) followed by Trichophyton audouinii (4.8%) and Microsporum gypseum (4.8%). Nine children had Arab origin (P = 0.005), and 12 had immigrated from the south-eastern region of Anatolia, Turkey. The screening of 32 households of 21 children with asymptomatic carriage enabled the researchers to detect the carrier state in three mothers and one sister, resulting in a total of four households (12.5%), with T. mentagrophytes var. mentagrophytes isolated, by hairbrush method in three cases and cotton swab in one case. If the methods were to be used alone, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriage would be found as 1.0% (16 of 1592) in the hairbrush, 0.3% (4 of 1592) in the toothbrush and 0.3% (5 of 1592) in the cotton swab methods; whereas the combined use of these three methods could reveal a total prevalence of 1.6% (25 of 1592). The hairbrush method was significantly found to be more effective in detecting dermatophyte fungi than the toothbrush (P < 0.01) and the cotton swab methods (P < 0.05). There was also a statistically significant difference between the use of a single method and the combination of all other three methods (P < 0.005).
In summary, it was found that the prevalence of asymptomatic carriage did not cover symptomatic tinea capitis prevalence (1.6% vs. 0%), and the dominant species was zoophilic T. mentagrophytes (92%, 23 of 25). Asymptomatic carriage was not found to be related to age, gender and the coexistence of other dermatophytoses; however, race (Arab origin) was found to be the only risk factor. For laboratory diagnosis, no method was found to be nominated as a gold standard; hence, a combined use of diagnosing methods was suggested.