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Progressive macular hypomelanosis is a common hypopigmentation mainly on the central parts of the trunk, predominantly in young adults, especially women. It is often mistaken for pityriasis versicolor and pityriasis alba. It occurs in all races and has been described in many parts of the world. We discovered follicular red fluorescence restricted to lesional skin. We suspected a relation with a porphyrin-producing bacteria residing in sebum of the pilosebaceous duct, and we therefore performed a study in 8 patients.
In all biopsy specimens taken from lesional skin of 8 women, we could demonstrate gram-positive bacteria in the pilosebaceous duct, and a mild perifollicular lymphocytic infiltrate was seen. In all but 1 patient, Propionibacterium acnes was yielded from cultured biopsy specimens taken from follicular lesional skin. Healthy follicular skin did not show bacteria in histological sections, and cultures did not yield anaerobic bacteria.
There seems to be a relation between the presence of P acnes and the hypopigmented macules. We propose that a factor is produced by these strains of P acnes, which interfere with melanogenesis. Based on these observations, we are undertaking a clinical trial to find a treatment for this troubling, intractable disease.
Westerhof W, Relyveld GN, Kingswijk MM, de Man P, Menke HE. Propionibacterium acnes and the Pathogenesis of Progressive Macular Hypomelanosis. Arch Dermatol. 2004;140(2):210–214. doi:10.1001/archderm.140.2.210
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