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June 2017

Tinea in the Time Before Modern Antifungal Agents

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of Texas McGovern Medical School at Houston, Houston
  • 2University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(6):543. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.1545

Modernity enjoys a broad and effective arsenal against superficial mycoses. However, the history of social stigma attached to dermatophyte infections, their unusual and often harmful treatments, and the controversial public health efforts designed to limit their spread before the discovery of safe and efficacious antifungal agents is worthy of reflection.

Tinea capitis and corporis were major public health challenges prior to the introduction of oral griseofulvin in 1958. Crowded classrooms were an efficient venue for transmission. In an attempt to mitigate exposure to their classmates, students infected with tinea were excluded from schooling until cured; they fell behind in their education, prompting the creation of special schools where they were able to continue their lessons and receive treatment while being isolated from uninfected children.1

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