BACKGROUND: Tinea capitis is a fungal infection of the scalp occurring commonly in children. Historical data indicate that clinical manifestations and the spectrum of etiologic agents vary greatly with geography, as well as socioeconomic affected populations.
OBJECTIVE: To study the possible connection between socioeconomic status, the disease patterns and the variability of etiological agents.
METHODS: We reviewed tinea capitis in China through literature since 1956. The disease pattern was correlated with economic and public health management protocols. Historical data on fungal identification were mostly obtained by morphology. The accuracy of these historical results was further confirmed by use of both morphological and ITS identification on a control set of 90 isolates collected recently from local hospital.
RESULTS: Full agreement of the two identification methods implies that data from the literature were sufficiently reliable to allow comparison across reported cases. In sum, 88 papers involving 25 administrative provinces and municipalities with 38,962 clinical strains met the inclusion criteria of this review. Zoophilic species Microsporum canis is the most prevalent agent within large, modernized cities in China today accounting for over 80% of infections. In contrast, anthropophilic dermatophytes, particularly Trichophyton violaceum, are geographically endemic only in some southeastern and northwestern regions.
CONCLUSION: Economic development and urbanization of cities favor a shift of etiological agents from anthroponoses to zoonoses in contemporary China. Pets are becoming the most likely sources of infection in modern lifestyles, replacing the earlier human-to-human transmission mode. However, the latter transmission mode is still prevalent in less developed areas lacking adequate social and public health facilities.