There is a tremendous amount of atopic dermatitis (AD) research underway. This month, we have several interesting articles to present.
Silverberg and colleagues described a very well-designed, vehicle-controlled, randomized 8-week study of a topical formulation of a purified strain of Nitrosomonas eutropha , an ammonia-oxidizing bacterium. In theory, this bacterium may reduce Staphylococcus aureus . The study compared two concentrations of the bacterium vs vehicle delivered as a spray twice per day. Study participants were adults with AD affecting 10%-40% of body surface area.
The study found "meaningful" improvements in itch and objective signs of disease, with clear separation between both doses of the bacterial spray compared with vehicle. At week 4, about 23% of participants treated with the bacterium were clear or almost clear (with a 2-point improvement) compared with 12% in the vehicle group (for comparison, in a phase 2 study comparing topical ruxolitinib with 0.1% triamcinolone cream, there was a 25% clear or almost clear rate [with 2-point improvement] in the triamcinolone-treated individuals).
Though an "all-natural" bacterial approach to managing AD may be appealing to some, it sounded like magic to me. But this well-done study makes it seem like the bacterial approach could be more promising than I had thought. This study also reported about twice as many adverse events (including gastrointestinal issues) with the bacterium-treated participants compared with those who received vehicle, adding to my belief that the bacterial product has efficacy. Whether any other topical will be more effective and safer than is topical triamcinolone remains to be seen. I'm still pessimistic about topicals because of patients' poor adherence to topical treatment, but perhaps an easy-to-use spray that isn't associated with patients' fear of "steroids" will be helpful.
I love articles like this one from Chen and colleagues . They analyzed data on hundreds of thousands of patients with and without AD. Adults with AD had a "significantly increased risk" of developing venous thromboembolism compared with adults without AD. The huge sample size of their study seems compelling. That huge sample size allows detection of effects so small that they may be clinically insignificant.
They report that patients with AD had a venous thromboembolism at a rate of 1.05/1000 patients-years; the rate was 0.82 for patients without AD. From that, we can calculate that there would be an additional 23 patients with venous thromboembolism for every 100,000 patient-years or about one more venous thromboembolism in the AD group in every 4000 patient-years. Though the finding was statistically significant, I don't think it is clinically meaningful.
The authors correctly conclude that "vascular examination and consultation with the emergency department, cardiologists, or pulmonologists are indicated for patients with AD who present with relevant symptoms (eg, unexplained dyspnea, chest tightness, and limb swelling)." But it is probably also true that vascular examination and consultation with the emergency department, cardiologists, or pulmonologists are indicated for patients without AD who present with those symptoms. I think the authors might have been on solid ground if they had concluded that there was a statistically significant but clinically insignificant increased risk for venous thromboembolism in patients with AD.