The infectious complications of atopic dermatitis

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2021 Jan;126(1):3-12. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2020.08.002. Epub 2020 Aug 7.


Objective: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is complicated by an increased risk for skin and systemic infections. Preventive therapy for AD is based on skin barrier improvement and anti-inflammatory treatments, whereas overt skin and systemic infections require antibiotics or antiviral treatments. This review updates the pathophysiology, diagnosis, management, controversy of antibiotic use, and potential treatments of infectious complications of AD.

Data sources: Published literature obtained through PubMed database searches and clinical pictures.

Study selections: Studies relevant to the mechanisms, diagnosis, management, and potential therapy of infectious complications of AD.

Results: Skin barrier defects, type 2 inflammation, Staphylococcusaureus colonization, and cutaneous dysbiosis are the major predisposing factors for the increased infections in AD. Although overt infections require antibiotics, the use of antibiotics in AD exacerbation remains controversial.

Conclusion: Infectious complications are a comorbidity of AD. Although not common, systemic bacterial infections and eczema herpeticum can be life-threatening. Preventive therapy of infections in AD emphasizes skin barrier improvement and anti-inflammatory therapy. The use of antibiotics in AD exacerbation requires further studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / complications*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Drug Development
  • Dysbiosis
  • Humans
  • Infection Control
  • Infections / diagnosis
  • Infections / etiology*
  • Infections / therapy
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy


  • Biomarkers