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Experimental phytophotodermatitis

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Phytophotodermatitis (PPD) is defined as a phototoxic reaction of the skin after contact with substances derived from plants and subsequent exposure to sunlight. It is a frequent disease in our outpatient clinics during summer because of contact with Tahitian lemon. Our objectives were to experimentally reproduce PPD in rats, to identify whether PPD is induced by minimal exposure periods to sunlight, to find what kinds of lemons and which parts of the lemon (the fruit juice or the peel juice) may trigger the disease; to know whether the use of sunblock prevents the reaction; and to perform light microscopy of the lesions to describe their histology. Methods:

Adult rats (Rattus norwegicus), three in each experiment, were used. After painting the rats with the fruit juice or the peel juice they were exposed to sunlight for 2.5, 5, 7.5, and 10 min. Tahitian and Sicilian lemons were used in the experiments. Biopsies with 3-mm punches of different times of exposure were performed. Results:

The peel juice of both lemons reproduced PPD, which was clinically evident after 48 h. When the peel juice was alone applied there was no reaction; moreover, exposure to sunlight alone triggered no reaction. Two and a half minutes of exposure time was sufficient to induce phototoxic reaction, which was time dependent (the longer the exposure the more intense the reaction). Histopathological studies showed epithelial time-dependent vacuolar degeneration. The use of sunblock diminished the intensity of the reaction but did not prevent it. Conclusion:

PPD can be reproduced in an animal model. It may be caused by the peel juice of Tahitian and Sicilian lemon. Because of an extremely short time of exposure (2.5 min) is sufficient to induce PPD it is necessary to alert the population, of the need for caution when handling lemons, especially outdoors despite using sunblock.

Keywords: animal model; phytophotodermatitis; plants dermatitis; psoralen

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Catholic University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil and 2: Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

Publication date: December 1, 2005


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