Background: The widespread diffusion of low-quality products as well as the local cultural habits could be a relevant cause of allergic diseases in developing countries. In the present observational study, we explored the prevalence of allergic contact dermatitis in both rural and urban settings in northern Ethiopia, where skin diseases represent a frequent cause of morbidity. Clinical features and specific reactivities in association with environmental or occupational exposure were investigated. Patients and methods: We patch tested 480 consecutive patients, visited at the Mekele IDC, exhibiting symptoms of contact dermatitis. A detailed medical history of each patient was collected. Results: A positive patch-test response was observed in 50% of subjects; nickel was the most frequent sensitizer (26.2%), followed by p-tert-butylphenol formaldehyde resin (10%), fragrance mix (7.1%), potassium dichromate (5.4%), cobalt chloride (4.6%), disperse blue (2.3%), and p-phenylenediamine (1.7%). Gender-related differences were analyzed for single allergen. Eczema represented the most common manifestation, affecting the head and neck as primary skin areas. While reactivity to nickel interested almost all the occupational categories, sensitization to other allergens could be ascribed to working habits or environmental exposure. Conclusions: The results gathered from this study, the first one conducted within the Tigray region in Ethiopia, confirm the need to take appropriate measures to limit the nickel rate in metal objects and may be useful to design allergenic series suitable for patch testing in those geographical settings.
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