Clin Dermatol. 2012 Jul-Aug;30(4):432-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2011.09.016.


Protothecosis is a rare infection caused by achlorophyllic algae that are members of the genus Prototheca. They are ubiquitous in nature in organic material. The clinical manifestations can be acute or chronic and local or disseminated. The disease is classified as cutaneous, causing bursitis or disseminated/systemic, affecting both immunocompetent and immunosuppressed patients, with more severe and disseminated infections occurring in immunocompromised individuals. Prototheca wickerhamii and Prototheca zopfii are the most frequent organisms reported in humans. Diagnosis is made by observing asexual sporangia (thecas) on histopathological examination of tissue. Medical and surgical treatment should be considered. Ketoconazole, itraconazole, fluconazole, voriconazole, posaconazole, and amphotericin B are the most commonly used antifungals. Voriconazole and amphotericin B are highly effective against Prototheca spp. Treatment failure is not uncommon because of the comorbidities that limit the therapeutic outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bursitis / drug therapy*
  • Bursitis / etiology
  • Bursitis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Opportunistic Infections / complications
  • Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy*
  • Opportunistic Infections / pathology
  • Prototheca / isolation & purification*
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / complications
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / pathology


  • Antifungal Agents