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Sylvia Brice, MD
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Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Ted Rosen, MD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Erythrasma is a superficial infection of the skin caused by Corynebacterium minutissimum, a gram-positive, non-spore-forming bacillus (picture 1). The disorder typically presents as macerated, scaly plaques between the toes or erythematous to brown patches or thin plaques in intertriginous areas (picture 2A-G).

The epidemiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and treatment of erythrasma will be discussed here.


Erythrasma is a common disorder. However, the prevalence is difficult to assess since many patients do not seek treatment or have subclinical infection. In a 1970 study of 754 college students in the UK, 19 percent had erythrasma [1]. A subsequent study of patients seen in a New Zealand dermatology clinic found a prevalence of 20 percent [2]. Higher prevalences have been reported in soldiers and institutionalized patients [3,4].

Erythrasma often occurs in healthy adults [1], but diabetic patients, older adults, or immunocompromised patients have increased risk for the disorder [5]. Conditions predisposing to skin occlusion and moisture also contribute to erythrasma, including obesity, hyperhidrosis, and living in tropical climates. Erythrasma is rare in children [6].


Erythrasma is caused by C. minutissimum, a component of the normal skin flora. C. minutissimum is a gram-positive, non-spore-forming, aerobic or facultative bacillus [7]. Under conditions of moisture and occlusion, C. minutissimum proliferates in the upper levels of the stratum corneum.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 18, 2017.
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