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June 2005

A Man With a Reddish Stained Washcloth

Arch Dermatol. 2005;141(6):795-796. doi:10.1001/archderm.141.6.795

A 55-year-old man presented because of the appearance of inexplicable reddish stains on his shirts, washcloths, and towels. He used the washcloths exclusively for his face and axillae and changed them weekly. The color was not visible until after some days’ use (Figure 1). The same year, the patient had participated in a television program, during which he had described the problem. Afterward, the host of the show asked us to search for an explanation of the phenomenon. A few persons who had watched the show had had similar experiences, and antibiotic therapy had resulted in a cure in some cases. We obtained multiple swabs from the patient’s skin. Culture of the swabs from the brow and axillae yielded Serratia marcescens. The colonies produced a reddish pigment similar to that of the stained washcloths.

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