Author(s): Wagner DK, Sohnle PG
Predispositions to the superficial mycoses include warmth and moisture, natural or iatrogenic immunosuppression, and perhaps some degree of inherited susceptibility. Some of these infections elicit a greater inflammatory response than others, and the noninflammatory ones are generally more chronic. The immune system is involved in the defense against these infections, and cell-mediated immunity appears to be particularly important. The mechanisms involved in generating immunologic reactions in the skin are complex, with epidermal Langerhans cells, other dendritic cells, lymphocytes, microvascular endothelial cells, and the keratinocytes themselves all participating in one way or another. A variety of defects in the immunologic response to the superficial mycoses have been described. In some cases the defect may be preexistent, whereas in others the infection itself may interfere with protective cell-mediated immune responses against the organisms. A number of different mechanisms may underlie these immunologic defects and lead to the development of chronic superficial fungal infection in individual patients. Although the immunologic defects appear to be involved in the chronicity of certain types of cutaneous fungal infections, treatment of these defects remains experimental at the present time.