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Getting on top of atopic dermatitis • The Medical RepublicThe Medical Republic

Atopic dermatitis, generally referred to as eczema, affects up to 20% of youngsters and 3% of adults worldwide and is a serious public well being burden.1-Three

In the 2010 WHO article into the worldwide burden of pores and skin illnesses, atopic dermatitis was ranked first by virtue of causing probably the most number of days that folks weren’t at full well being.2

The results of the situation are greater than skin deep. Youngsters with poorly controlled atopic dermatitis endure from decreased sleep and elevated psychological issues.Four  The function of atopy (raised IgE) relates the illness to other allergic responses resembling meals allergic reactions, allergic rhinitis and asthma.

This so-called “atopic march” describes the progressive acquisition of atopic illnesses in a step-wise method throughout childhood.5  Atopic dermatitis also has a considerable economic impression. A 2013 research in the USA confirmed that the direct value for remedy may be as high as $3.8 billion a yr.6

One of the newest Australian research from 2004 concluded that patients can incur substantial annual out of pocket costs for remedy products and medical consultations.7


The analysis of atopic dermatitis is medical, based mostly on historic options, skin lesions morphology and distribution and associated medical signs. Formal units of diagnostic standards have been developed by totally different groups.

The 1980 Hanifin and Rajka standards are one of the earliest and most recognised units of diagnostic criteria and require three of four major criteria and three of 23 minor criteria to be met.eight

Although it is comprehensive and sometimes used in medical trials, the massive number of standards makes it troublesome to use in medical apply.  A number of worldwide groups have since proposed modifications to enhance the above criteria.

The United Kingdom working get together, particularly, has simplified the Hanifin and Rajka standards to a core set. 9  In 2003, the American Academy of Dermatology revised Hanifin and Rajka standards which might be deemed extra streamlined and applicable to the complete vary of affected person ages.10 (See desk, page 28)

Validated scores to evaluate the severity of atopic dermatitis embrace the Eczema Area Scoring Index, Scoring Atopic Dermatitis and Patient-Oriented Eczema Measure.


Atopic dermatitis is immunologically characterised by the over-expression of T helper 2 (Th2) cytokines, including interleukin 4 (IL-Four), IL-5 and IL-13 and chemokines (C-C motif chemokine ligand 17 (CCL17), CCL18 and CCL22, and IL-22, a Th22 cytokine.11

IL-4 and IL-13 are cytokines central to the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis and produced mainly by Th2 cells.12, 13

IL-13 is considered a main disease-inducing effector cytokine, whereas IL-4 works as a key amplifier of sort 2 immunity by facilitating enlargement of the CD4+ Th2-cell inhabitants in secondary lymphoid organs.14

IL-4 and IL-13 can activate and promote Th2 cells survival, induce differentiation and activation of myeloid and atopic dendritic cells, activation of B cells, stimulation of IgE class switching and eosinophil recruitment.15

Sort 2 cytokines may cause:

1. Suppression of terminal differentiation proteins filaggrin, loricrin and involucrin.

2. Antimicrobial peptides inhibition.

Three. S100As upregulation.

Four. Epidermal hyperplasia induction.

5. Lipid synthesis suppression.

6. Spongiosis induction.11

IL-Four and IL-13 ranges are discovered to be correlated with atopic dermatitis disease activity. 14


Basic strategy

As atopic dermatitis is a continual relapsing disease, management consists of patients/mother and father schooling, mild skin care and regular use of emollients, as well as anti-inflammatory remedy.

Topical brokers symbolize the mainstay of remedy. Extreme disease might require phototherapy or systemic drugs at the side of continued topical remedy.  Elements which will exacerbate the situation must be recognized and prevented.

Topical corticosteroids

Topical corticosteroids remain the first-line remedy. Their efficacy has been verified in more than 100 randomised managed trials.16 Topical corticosteroids have anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, immunosuppressive and vasoconstrictive actions, and have been demonstrated to lower the acute and continual irritation of the disease and the associated pruritus.17

Topical calcineurin inhibitors

Topical calcineurin inhibitors embrace tacrolimus (zero.03% and 0.1%) ointment for average to extreme atopic dermatitis and pimecrolimus (1%) cream for delicate to average circumstances. The inhibitors suppress T-cell activitation and modulate secretion of cytokines and different proinflammatory mediators, and reduce mast cell and dendritic cell exercise.18

Topical calcineurin inhibitors are helpful for atopic dermatitis affecting the face and intertriginous areas the place corticosteroid-induced pores and skin atrophy could also be of concern. They’re also useful in managing frequent exacerbation of or persistent atopic dermatitis that might otherwise require continual topical corticosteroids utilization.


Phototherapy exerts its immunomodulatory effects by way of T-cell apoptosis induction, dendritic cells discount and decreased expression of Th2 cytokines including IL-5, IL-13 and IL-31.19

Phototherapy together with narrowband UVB and UVA have been demonstrated to enhance atopic dermatitis and the associated pruritus.  UVB remedy has additionally been demonstrated to scale back S. aureus colonisation of skin. Phototherapy is often mixed with topical corticosteroids.

The potential negative effects of phototherapy embrace sunburn response and long-term remedy could also be related to photoaging and an increased danger of skin most cancers.

Requirement to journey a number of occasions every week to a phototherapy centre will not be sensible for some sufferers and it might be challenging for young youngsters to cooperate with this remedy. Nevertheless, its side-effect profile continues to be beneficial compared with systemic immunosuppressive agents.

Conventional systemic anti-inflammatory remedy

Systemic anti-inflammatory drugs could also be administered for youngsters and adults with moderate-to-severe disease who fail to respond adequately to optimised topical remedy. Mixture of systemic remedy and topical corticosteroid remedy is incessantly required to maximise therapeutic profit.


Cyclosporin is a potent inhibitor of T-cell dependent immune responses and IL-2 production. Cyclosporin remedy leads to speedy enchancment of atopic dermatitis in adults and youngsters.  Nevertheless, on account of potential side-effects, together with nephrotoxicity and hypertension, it’s used as a short-term remedy, working as a bridge between other therapies.


Azathioprine is a purine synthesis inhibitor that reduces leukocyte proliferation.  It is a remedy for average to severe atopic dermatitis in youngsters and adults.  People with genetically decided low exercise of the enzyme thiopurine methyltransferase (TPMT) have elevated susceptibility to azathioprine-induced myelotoxicity.

By determining TPMT activity and/or genotyping for TPMT polymorphisms before beginning remedy and adjusting dose accordingly, this will scale back the danger of remedy induced myelotoxicity.  Azathioprine has a sluggish onset of action, with medical improvement after one to 2 months and full profit requiring two to 3 months of remedy.


Methotrexate reduces allergen-specific T-cell activity.  It is used within the remedy of refractory atopic dermatitis in adults and youngsters together with folic acid supplementation. Most medical impact is usually seen after two to 3 months of therapy.

Mycophenolate mofetil

Mycophenolate mofetil inhibits de novo pathway of purine synthesis, resulting in suppression of lymphocyte perform.  It’s used in recalcitrant atopic dermatitis in adults and youngsters, with most therapeutic benefit seen at two to 3 months of remedy.

Systemic corticosteroids

A short course of systemic corticosteroids may be thought-about for severe acute exacerbations of atopic dermatitis while phototherapy or immunomodulatory remedy is initiated.

Novel therapies

An increased understanding of the underlying immunopathogenesis of atopic dermatitis has led to improvement of new biologic therapies and small molecule medicine particularly concentrating on (inhibiting) immune and inflammatory mediators identified, including the Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13, phosphodiesterase E4 and Janus kinases.


Dupilumab is a totally human IgG4 monoclonal antibody administered subcutaneously. It targets the IL-4R subunit of the heterodimeric IL-4 and IL-13 receptors, leading to blockage of the downstream signalling of IL-Four and -13, two essential Th2 cytokines implicated within the immunopathogenesis of the situation.

Dupilumab is the primary biologic therapy to have been accredited for treating grownup sufferers with average to severe illnesses. Dupilumab remedy has been shown to alter the atopic dermatitis transcriptome in a dose-dependent trend.

Variations in gene expression following administration of dupilumab embrace down-regulation of markers of epidermal proliferation, down-regulation of inflammatory mediators, upregulation of structural proteins, upregulation of lipid metabolism proteins, and upregulation of epidermal barrier proteins leading to normalisation of pores and skin.15

Dupilumab had been reported to considerably scale back serum levels of CCL17 (or thymus and activation-regulated chemokine), a key regulator of Th2-mediated immunity and a selected and goal biomarker of illness activity.20

In Australia, dupilumab was permitted by the TGA in January final yr for the remedy of moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis in grownup patients who’re candidates for continual systemic remedy.  At the time of publication, dupilumab was not PBS listed.

In United States, the Food and Drug Administration  authorised dupilumab for use in adolescent patients with moderate-to-severe disease in March this yr and there are research underneath approach investigating the efficacy and safety of dupilumab plus topical corticosteroids in patients six to 12 years previous with severe atopic dermatitis, and the security, pharmacokinetics and efficacy of dupilumab in youngsters six months to 6 years previous with extreme illness.

Dupilumab comes as a single-dose 300mg pre-filled syringe for administration as a subcutaneous injection. The really helpful dose is an initial dose of 600mg (two 300mg injections in several injection sites) followed by 300mg given each other week.

Part III medical trials in adults with moderate-to-severe illness have proven that dupilumab as monotherapy or together with topical corticosteroids (or topical calcineurin inhibitors if topical corticosteroids usage was inadvisable) improved multiple measures of disease severity, pruritus, sleep disturbance, nervousness and melancholy, and high quality of life compared with placebo.21-23 Improvements in disease severity and itch with dupilumab remedy may be seen within first two weeks of remedy.

The commonest side-effects of dupilumab both as monotherapy, or mixed, embrace conjunctivitis, injection-site reactions and oral herpes.  Other potential side-effects embrace pores and skin infections and exacerbations of atopic dermatitis and nasopharyngitis.

The incidence of allergic conjunctivitis was two-fold larger in dupilumab plus topical corticosteroids recipients in contrast with placebo plus topical corticosteroids recipients within the CHRONOS research.22

Different hostile occasions occurring extra often with dupilumab plus topical corticosteroids than with placebo plus topical corticosteroids in the above trial embrace eye pruritus, blepharitis and dry eye.

All instances of conjunctivitis have been of delicate or average severity and resolved with topical eye remedies.22

Sufferers must be advised to report new onset or worsening eye symptoms to their healthcare supplier. Across all research, the incidences of critical antagonistic occasions for dupilumab (with or without topical corticosteroids) leading to  discontinuation have been low. And dupilumab was not associated with any clinically vital laboratory abnormalities.21-23

Being a therapeutic protein, immunogenicity might probably occur  The 52-week CHRONOS research confirmed 2% of dupilumab plus topical corticosteroid recipients had anti-drug antibody responses, though manufacturing of such responses which did not appear to end in loss of efficacy. 22, 24

Hypersensitivity reactions (similar to serum sickness, serum sickness-like response and generalised urticaria) occurred in less than 1% of dupilumab recipients.25

The use of stay vaccines must be prevented in sufferers receiving dupilumab, but  non-live vaccines could also be administered concurrently.24,25 Subsequently it is very important advise patients to debate journey and vaccination plans prior to beginning dupilumab in order that they can be vaccinated appropriately prematurely.

Different new biologic and small molecule therapies

Crisaborole ointment 2% is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor which gained TGA approval in February this yr as topical remedy of delicate to average atopic dermatitis in patients aged two years and older.

Cytokine-targeted therapeutic brokers for atopic dermatitis in medical improvement, including the IL-13 inhibitors tralokinumab and lebrikizumab, the IL-31 receptor A inhibitor nemolizumab; the IL-12/IL-23 inhibitor ustekinumab and IL-17 inhibitor secukinumab, which are already in medical use for psoriasis remedy, are also being investigated for their potential roles in atopic dermatitis remedy.

The Janus kinase inhibitors, tofacitinib and baricitinib, are also in medical improvement for atopic dermatitis remedy.


Atopic dermatitis is an immune-mediated persistent relapsing inflammatory pores and skin dysfunction characterised by a Th2 immune response and is a serious public health burden.

Historically, there was a scarcity of protected and effective long-term remedy options for patients with moderate-to-severe illness which does not respond adequately to first-line topical therapies and second-line remedy with phototherapy and systemic immunosuppressants.

Dupilumab is the primary biologic agent authorised to be used in adults with moderate-to-severe illness. It binds to the IL-4R subunit of the heterodimeric IL-Four and IL-13 receptors, resulting in blockage of the downstream signalling of these two major cytokines implicated within the immunopathogenesis of the condition. Dupilumab can be used with or without topical corticosteroids or topical calcineurin inhibitors.

Enhancements in disease severity and itch with dupilumab remedy may be seen inside first two weeks of remedy. Across all studies, the incidences of critical remedy emergent hostile occasions for dupilumab resulting in remedy discontinuation are low. The commonest side-effects of dupilumab embrace conjunctivitis, injection-site reactions and oral herpes. Patients must be suggested to report new onset or worsening eye symptoms to their healthcare provider. The use of reside vaccines ought to be prevented in patients receiving dupilumab though non-live vaccines could also be administered.

Dr Rose Mak is a advisor dermatologist in personal follow (Epworth Freemasons Hospital East Melbourne and St John of God Hospital Berwick) and holds appointments at the Royal Youngsters’s Hospital and the Skin and Most cancers Foundation.

Acknowledgement: The writer acknowledges Dr Richard Worrell for providing helpful discussions.

Conflict of curiosity: The writer has no conflicts of curiosity to declare.


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