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Infectious Diseases

Christmas Tree Virus

04/09/1999

Question:

What is the "Christmas Tree" Virus? All that I know is that it creates lesions on the skin.

Answer:

I have never heard of a "Christmas tree virus" that causes skin lesions. I vaguely recall from medical school (a long time ago) that a fungal infection of the skin called pityriasis versicolor can sometimes cause a rash on the trunk of the body that might appear in the shape of a Christmas tree. Such entities are usually diagnosed and treated by dermatologists.

Pityriasis versicolor is called a dermatophyte infection (superficial fungal infection of the skin) and is caused by the yeast Malasesezia furfur. It occurs on the trunk or upper parts of the arms and legs. They may appear more lightly or darkly pigmented than the surrounding skin that often fuse together in patches, and sometimes have overlying scaling. They are usually not itchy.

Diagnosis is made by looking at a scraping of the skin under a microscope, or looking at the lesions with a special light called a Wood`s lamp. Treatment is usually with a topical anti-fungal cream or ointment. Severe cases can be treated with oral anti-fungal medicine. Pigmentation changes to the skin may take months, however, to return to normal.

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Response by:

Kenneth   Skahan, MD Kenneth Skahan, MD
Assistant Professor in Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati