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A delusion of parasitosis is defined as the fixed, false belief of infestation by invisible organisms or fibrous material of unknown origin. The differential diagnosis is true infection, substance use disorder, dementia or other neuropsychiatric disease.
Our goal was to characterize delusions of parasitosis, classically named Ekbom syndrome, among individuals attending our emergency department (ED).
Over a four-year period (2017-2020), we carried out a retrospective case-register study of patients with DSM-5 Ekbom syndrome attending an ED that provides mental health services to an area of nearly 450.000 inhabitants in Sabadell (Barcelona, Spain).
There were 13 eligible patients: 7 were diagnosed for the first time and 6 had multiple episodes. Female-to-male ratio was 1.6:1; average age was 56.9. The most common diagnosis was delusional disorder (n=5;8.5%), followed by schizophrenia (n=3;23.1%) and organic disorders (n=2;15.4%). Origin: Africa (n=5;38.5%), South-America (n=4;30.8%) and Spain (n=4;30.8%). Fifty percent showed poor treatment compliance. Antipsychotics used: risperidone (n=8;61.54%), olanzapine (n=4;30.8%). Five patients received antidepressants. Most patients had previously been seen by other medical specialties (internal medicine, dermatology and hematology). ‘’Match box sign’’: 7 patients (53.8%). Cerebral atrophy was present on brain scan in 4 patients. After discharge: acute psychiatric unit (n=7), outpatient appointments (n=4), day hospital (n=1) and 1 to a psychogeriatric unit.
Delusions of parasitosis are rare in our emergency department. The typical patient is a postmenopausal woman, a visitor or immigrant to Spain. Effective treatment requires a focus on cultural, gender, and age aspects, with close cooperation between psychiatry and other relevant specialties.
Treatment response in schizophrenia can be influenced by cultural and ethno-biological factors. However, in delusional disorder (DD), these potential influences have been poorly investigated.
This review aims to synthesize what is known about the influence that cultural and biological factors may have on treatment response in DD.
A systematic review was performed on PubMed from inception to 2020 in keeping with PRISMA directives. Search terms: [(cultural OR ethnic* OR ethno*) AND (treatment OR therap* OR antipsychotic response) AND (delusional disorder)]. We included all studies whose objective was to explore ethno-psychopharmacological aspects of treatment response in DD.
A total of 182 papers were retrieved. Four studies tested ethno-biological factors and 10 reported cultural aspects of treatment response in DD. 1. Cultural hypothesis: 3 studies reported cultural differences in diagnostic practices; in 2 studies, culturally-determined long durations of untreated psychosis (DUP) and comorbidity with mood disorders was associated with response to both antipsychotics (AP) and antidepressants (AD); 3 studies reported that response and AP dose were similar among cultures and that culturally-sensitive psychotherapy improved adherence; 2 studies showed that, where women had poor access to health care, mortality rates were high. 2. Ethno-biological hypothesis: 1 study reviewed moderators and mediators of ethno-specific treatment response; 1 study presented a culture-bound syndrome (Taijin kyofusho) for which AD were found effective; 2 studies in diverse populations found that DD and schizophrenia were both significantly linked to HLA genes.
The sociodemographic profile of DD is consistent across various cultures and, when treated appropriately, responds, but in an ethno-culturally-specific manner.
In order to prevent relapse and increase medication adherence, primary care physicians and psychiatric inpatient units should consider referring patients with delusional disorder (DD) to specialized outpatient clinics for treatment and follow-up.
This poster describes a sample of DD patients referred to a specialized unit for DD and documents rates of follow-up care.
Over a 2-year period, 29 individuals were consecutively referred to the Parc Tauli -Delusional Syndrome Working Group, which provides treatment and clinical care for patients with delusional disorders for a catchment area of nearly 450.000 inhabitants in Sabadell (Barcelona, Spain). Criteria for inclusion in the program are relatively flexible. Referred patients are evaluated at baseline and at 6 months following their first appointment. Treatment and case management are offered by a multidisciplinary team consisting of psychiatric, nursing, and social work personnel. Psychological interventions are also offered.
Of the 29 persons initially referred, 27 attended at least one scheduled appointment. Twenty-one out of the 27 patients received a confirmed diagnosis of DD (14 women,7 men), 2 suffered from schizophrenia and 4 were diagnosed with other psychiatric disorders and referred to other programs: primary care (n=2), affective program (n=1) and addictions unit (n=1). A breakdown of DD subtypes follows: persecutory (n=10,47.6%), jealous (n=4,19%), somatic (n=5,23.81%), mixed (n=2,9.5%). Three patients with DD (14.3%) were lost to follow-up. Attendance rates of the 21 DD patients: 80.4% (Women:77.67%, Men:100%).
For a traditionally difficult-to-engage population, adherence to multidisciplinary clinic appointments was relatively high. Loss to follow-up was lower than would have been expected.
Conflict of interest
AGR has received honoraria, registration for congresses and/or travel costs from Janssen, Lundbeck-Otsuka and Angelini.
Antipsychotics have been classically considered the treatment of choice for delusional disorder (DD) and antidepressant medications have been restricted to patients with comorbid depression.
Our aim is to describe the case of a patient with DD with delusions of parasitosis, who responded to paroxetine as monotherapy. We also aimed to review the recent literature on the potential use of antidepressants as the main treatment for somatic type DD.
After the case report, we present a narrative review on the use of antidepressants in DD, somatic type (DSM-criteria) by using PubMed database from inception until 2020.
Case: 74 year-old woman without previous psychiatric diagnosis who suffered from long-term cutaneous and vulvar pruritus. She was referred to psychiatry from dermatology to assess thought content and sensoperceptive disturbances. In the past, she had received unsuccessful treatment with antihistamines. The patient brought a collection of “the identified parasite” (matchbox sign) to our first appointment. On assessment, she was diagnosed with DD with delusions of parasitosis. Risperidone 1mg/day was poorly tolerated (excessive sedation). She refused further antipsychotic treatment, so we started paroxetine up to 20mg/day. The patient went into total remission of her pruritus and delusions of parasitosis. Review. In line with our case, 6 studies reported on the successful use of antidepressants as monotherapy for DD, somatic type. Most of studies report the successful use of an antipsychotic/antidepressant combination (case-series, case reports).
Although antipsychotics are the treatment of choice, antidepressant medications may be an effective alternative in somatic type DD when patients refuse antipsychotics.
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