Malassezia spp. is a genus of lipophilic yeasts and comprises the most common fungi on healthy human skin. Despite its role as a commensal on healthy human skin, Malassezia spp. is attributed a pathogenic role in atopic dermatitis. The mechanisms by which Malassezia spp. may contribute to the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis are not fully understood. Here, we review the latest findings on the pathogenetic role of Malassezia spp. in atopic dermatitis (AD). For example, Malassezia spp. produces a variety of immunogenic proteins that elicit the production of specific IgE antibodies and may induce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In addition, Malassezia spp. induces auto-reactive T cells that cross-react between fungal proteins and their human counterparts. These mechanisms contribute to skin inflammation in atopic dermatitis and therefore influence the course of this disorder. Finally, we discuss the possible benefit of an anti-Malassezia spp. treatment in patients with atopic dermatitis.
Keywords: IgE antibodies; Malassezia spp.; atopic dermatitis; auto-reactive T cells; cytokines.