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Dimorphic fungi exist in discrete environmental niches as molds that produce conidia, which are their infectious form. In tissues and at temperatures of >35°C, the mold converts to the yeast form. Other endemic mycoses—histoplasmosis, coccidioidomycosis, and blastomycosis—are discussed in Chaps. 207, 208, and 209, respectively.


Etiologic Agent, Epidemiology, and Pathogenesis

image Sporothrix schenckii is a thermally dimorphic fungus that is found worldwide in sphagnum moss, decaying vegetation, and soil. Sporotrichosis most commonly affects persons who participate in outdoor activities such as landscaping, gardening, and tree farming. Infected animals can transmit S. schenckii to humans. A large ongoing outbreak of sporotrichosis in Rio de Janeiro has been traced to cats, which are highly susceptible to this infection. Sporotrichosis is primarily a localized infection of skin and subcutaneous tissues that follows traumatic inoculation of conidia. Osteoarticular sporotrichosis is uncommon, occurring most often in middle-aged men who abuse alcohol, and pulmonary sporotrichosis occurs almost exclusively in persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who have inhaled the organism from the environment. Dissemination occurs rarely, almost always affecting markedly immunocompromised patients, especially those with AIDS.

Clinical Manifestations and Differential Diagnosis

Days or weeks after inoculation, a papule develops at the site and then usually ulcerates but is not very painful. Similar lesions develop sequentially along the lymphatic channels proximal to the original lesion (Fig. 214-1). Some patients develop a fixed cutaneous lesion that can be verrucous or ulcerative and that remains localized without lymphatic extension. The differential diagnosis of lymphocutaneous sporotrichosis includes nocardiosis, tularemia, nontuberculous mycobacterial infection (especially that due to Mycobacterium marinum), and leishmaniasis. Osteoarticular sporotrichosis can present as chronic synovitis or septic arthritis. Pulmonary sporotrichosis must be differentiated from tuberculosis and from other fungal pneumonias. Numerous ulcerated skin lesions, with or without spread to visceral organs (including the central nervous system [CNS]), are characteristic of disseminated sporotrichosis.

FIGURE 214-1

Several nodular lesions that developed after a young boy pricked his index finger with a thorn. A culture yielded S. schenckii. (Courtesy of Dr. Angela Restrepo.)


S. schenckii usually grows readily as a mold on Sabouraud’s agar when material from a cutaneous lesion is incubated at room temperature. Histopathologic examination of biopsy material shows a mixed granulomatous and pyogenic reaction, and tiny oval or cigar-shaped yeasts sometimes can be seen with special stains. In cases in which the organism has not grown, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of tissue samples can sometimes be helpful.

Treatment and Prognosis

Guidelines for the management of the various forms of sporotrichosis have been published by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (Table 214-1). Itraconazole is the drug of choice ...

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