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Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia

versão On-line ISSN 1806-4841

An. Bras. Dermatol. vol.88 no.6 supl.1 Rio de Janeiro nov./dez. 2013

https://doi.org/10.1590/abd1806-4841.20132232 

CASE REPORT

Cutaneous protothecosis - case report*

Prototecose cutânea - relato de caso

Pâmela Craveiro Gomes da Silva1   

Sabrina Beirão da Costa e Silva2 

Ricardo Barbosa Lima3 

Antonio Macedo D'Acri4 

Omar Lupi5  7  8  9 

Carlos José Martins6  10 

1MD, Graduate fellow -Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

2MD, Resident - Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

3MD, Graduate fellow in Dermatology - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro. Adjunct Professor- Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

4MD, PhD in Dermatology - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). Adjunct Professor - Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

5MD, PhD, Post-doctorate fellow in Immunodermatology/University of Texas Medical Branch. Adjunct Professor - Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO). Chairman of the Dermatology Section - General Polyclinic of Rio de Janeiro (PGRJ). Graduate Course on Medical Clinics - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

7Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital, Dermatology Section

8General Polyclinic of Rio de Janeiro

9Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Graduate Course on Medical Clinics, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

6MD, MSc in Dermatology - Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO). Chairman and Adjunct Professor - Dermatology Section - Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital/ Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil

10Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Gaffree & Guinle University Hospital, Dermatology Section, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil


ABSTRACT

Cutaneous protothecosis is a rare infection caused by achlorophyllic algae of the genus Prototheca. The lesions usually occur on exposed areas, related with trauma, in immunocompromised patients. The most common clinical presentation is a vesicobullous and ulcerative lesion with pustules and scabs, simulating bacterial, fungal or herpetic infections or eczema. The diagnosis is determined by agent identification through histopathology, culture and the carbohydrates assimilation test. The finding of morula-like spherules is characteristic of Prototheca sp. Its rarity and non-specific clinical aspect may difficult the disease diagnosis. We report a case of a diabetic patient, in chronic use of systemic corticosteroids, that developed a skin lesion after trauma to the right leg.

Key words: Harmful algal bloom; Immune tolerance; Opportunistic infections; Seaweed; Skin diseases, parasitic

RESUMO

A prototecose cutânea é uma infecção rara causada por algas aclorofílicas do gênero Prototheca. Geralmente as lesões ocorrem em áreas expostas, relacionadas à trauma, em indivíduos imunocomprometidos. A apresentação clínica mais comum é uma lesão vesico-bolhosa e ulcerativa com pústulas e crostas, simulando piodermites, infecções fúngicas, infecções herpéticas ou eczemas. O diagnóstico é realizado pela identificação do agente através do exame histopatológico, da cultura e do teste de assimilação dos carboidratos. O achado de esférulas com aspecto de mórula são características da Prototheca sp. A raridade da doença e o aspecto clínico inespecífico dificultam o diagnóstico da doença. Relatamos um caso em paciente diabética, em uso crônico de corticoide sistêmico, que desenvolveu lesão cutânea após trauma na perna direita.

Palavras-Chave: Alga marinha; Dermatopatias parasitárias; Infecções oportunistas; Proliferação nociva de algas; Tolerância imunológica

INTRODUCTION

Protothecosis is a rare infection caused by achlorophyllic algae of the genus Prototheca.1 They are mainly found in the environment, in the soil, fresh and salted water, mud of trees, sewage, animal waste and in some types of food.2,3 They can colonize the skin and nails.1 There are 3 clinical forms: cutaneous, olecranon bursitis and systemic.1 The cutaneous form is the most common, and most infections are caused by P. wickerhamii, in immunocompromised patients.4,5 The lesions usually occur on exposed areas, related with trauma.1 There are 77 cases of cutaneous protothecosis described in the literature, 6 of them published by Brazilian authors.1,6 We report the case of a diabetes mellitus type II patient in chronic use of systemic corticosteroids for allergic rhinitis, that developed a skin lesion after trauma to the right leg.

CASE REPORT

A 61-year-old white woman, housewife by occupation, born in the state of Rio de Janeiro and raised in Araruama, a coastal city in an oceanic lakes region, reported the appearance of an erythematous and painful lesion in the right leg. It had developed 15 days before on an excoriation caused by local trauma that occurred during hospitalization for investigation of muscle weakness in the arms and legs. She was treated with cephalexin 500mg, four times a day, for a week, without improvement of the lesion and was referred to the dermatology service. Her medical history disclosed hypertension and allergic rhinitis in prolonged treatment with systemic corticosteroids in anti-inflammatory doses, since the age of 14-year-old (in the last year, intramuscular injections of betamethasone 7mg/week). During hospitalization, a motor and sensory neuropathy and type II diabetes mellitus were diagnosed and the treatment with metformin 850mg, 3 times a day, was started, with control of glucose blood level. The patient was discharged and the investigation of skin lesions continued in the dermatology service.

Dermatological examination revealed an erythematous, tender and painful plaque covered by pustules and scabs on the right leg (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1 Erythematous plaque covered by pustules and scabs, on the right leg 

The clinical picture suggested the diagnosis of erysipela, staphylococcal folliculitis, dermatophytosis and sporotrichosis.

Hematologic and biochemical laboratory findings were normal, except for high glucose levels (150mg/dL) before the introduction of metformin. HIV and hepatitis tests were negative.

A swab was collected from the pustules in addition to biopsy of the lesion. Cultures from the swab were performed for bacteria and fungi and were negative or both. Fifteen days after sowing, the cultures on Sabouraud dextrose agar and blood agar, developed white, creamy, yeast-like colonies (Figure 2). Culture microscopy showed sporangiospores within the sporangia, with morula-like aspect, consistent with Prototheca sp.

FIGURE 2 White, creamy, yeast-like colonies on Sabouraud dextrose agar 

Histopathology revealed a suppurative and granulomatous inflammation in the dermis. The periodic acid-Schiff stain (PAS) revealed morula-like structures in the suppurative area (Figure 3). The same structures were colored in black by the Grocott silver stain (Figure 4).

FIGURE 3 Histopathology revealed morula-like structures (arrows), typical of Prototheca sp., colored in red by PAS. (X400) 

FIGURE 4 Histopathology showing Prototheca sp. structures, colored in black, by Grocott silver stain. (X400) 

For species identification, a suspension of the culture was submitted to the carbohydrate assimilation test by the Vitek automated system, indicating P. wickerhamii as the causative species.

After the diagnosis of cutaneous protothecosis, treatment was started with itraconazole at a dose of 200 mg daily for 3 months with complete healing of the lesion.

DISCUSSION

The first human protothecosis case was described by Davies and colleagues in 1964.7 Clinically the infection can present three forms: cutaneous, olecranon bursitis and systemic protothecosis.8 Up to now, 117 cases of protothecosis were reported.1 77 of those cases were of the cutaneous form, and 6 were described by Brazilian authors.1,6

It mainly affects immunocompromised patients. Risk factors include prolonged use of steroids, malignancies, diabetes mellitus, AIDS, organ transplantation and surgeries.1

The cutaneous infection is the most frequent clinical form.1 It occurs on exposed areas, mainly on the extremities and face.9 Sometimes it can be associated with trauma.5,8 The most common presentation is vesiculobullous and ulcerative lesion with purulent discharge and crusting. However, other forms have been described: erythematous plaques, pustules, papules, nodules, verrucous lesions, hypopigmented or atrophic lesions.1 Differential diagnosis includes bacterial infections, fungal infections, herpes simplex virus infections and eczema.1,3,4,5,9,10

Diagnosis depends on morphological identification of the organisms through histology, culture and carbohydrate assimilation test.1,2,8,10 Sporangiospores within the sporangia forms a morula-like structure typical of Prototheca sp.1,3

Many treatment regimens have been attempted, but there has been no consistency in the clinical response.1,8 Azole antifungals such as ketoconazole, fluconazole and mainly itraconazole are used for localized infections.5 Amphotericin B is the most effective drug against protothecosis and is reserved for disseminated and visceral infections.5 For localized cutaneous forms, surgical debridement or excision can be employed.4

The rarity and nonspecific clinical appearance of protothecosis complicate the differential diagnosis with other skin infections and disorders, reinforcing the importance of the etiologic agent research.

REFERENCES

1. Lass-Flörl C, Mayr A. Human protothecosis. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2007;20:230-42. [ Links ]

2. Chao SC, Hsu MM, Lee JY. Cutaneous protothecosis: report of five cases. Br J Dermatol. 2002;146:688-93. [ Links ]

3. Zaitz C, Godoy AM, Colucci FM, de Sousa VM, Ruiz LR, Masada AS, et al. Cutaneous protothecosis: report of a third Brazilian case. Int J Dermatol. 2006;45:124-6. [ Links ]

4. Kantrow SM, Boyd AS. Protothecosis. Dermatol Clin. 2003;21:249-55. [ Links ]

5. Hillesheim PB, Bahrami S. Cutaneous Protothecosis. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2011;135:941-4. [ Links ]

6. Carneiro FP, Moraes MA, Rebêlo AM, Coutinho AM. Prototecose cutânea: relato de caso. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop.. 2007;40:466-8. [ Links ]

7. Yamada N, Yoshida Y, Ohsawa T, Takahara M, Morino S, Yamamoto O. A case of cutaneous protothecosis successfully treated with local thermal therapy as an adjunct to itraconazole therapy in an immunocompromised host. Med Mycol. 2010;48:643-6. [ Links ]

8. Leimann BC, Monteiro PC, Lazéra M, Candanoza ER, Wanke B. Protothecosis. Med Mycol. 2004;42:95-106. [ Links ]

9. Hightower KD, Messina JL. Cutaneous protothecosis: a case report and review of the literature. Cutis. 2007;80:129-31. [ Links ]

10. Boyd AS, Langley M, King LE Jr.. Cutaneous manifestations of Prototheca infections. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1995;32:758-64. [ Links ]

* Work performed at the Dermatology Service of the University Hospital Gaffrée and Guinle, Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (HUGG-UNIRIO) - Rio de Janeiro (RJ), Brazil.

Conflict of interest: None

Financial Support: None

Received: October 28, 2012; Accepted: January 01, 2013

Mailing address: Pâmela Craveiro Gomes da Silva, Rua Mariz e Barros, 775 - Tijuca, 20270-004 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ, Brazil. E-mail: pamelacraveiro@hotmail.com

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