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December 2005

Transmission of Parthenium Dermatitis by Clothing

Arch Dermatol. 2005;141(12):1605. doi:10.1001/archderm.141.12.1605

In the “Archives a Century Ago” section in the October 2003 issue of the ARCHIVES, I read with interest the abstract of the article “Dermatitis Venenata: A Supplemental List,” wherein 2 cases of poison ivy dermatitis precipitated by laundered and stored clothes are discussed.1

Because urushiol retains its antigenic potential indefinitely in the dry state,2 I wondered whether parthenium dermatitis could be transmitted by a similar mechanism. Parthenium hysterophorus is a common cause of airborne contact dermatitis and produces severe, chronic, and disabling contact dermatitis in India. After washing, clothes are allowed to dry in sunlight and wind and then are pressed, folded, and stored. It is possible that parthenium-laden dust is trapped by the wet cloth, and the cloth may retain antigens after drying. Washer men wash clothes by ponds or rivers, and most clothes are hung to dry, while a few are spread over the ground. The latter method of drying may trap more antigens.

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