An observant reader wrote that in two separate articles ("Hair Loss in Children" 3:85, 1981 and "Fungal Infections in Children" 3:41, 1981), the first author recommends that "hairs be scraped with a dull blade to obtain a specimen for culture," while the second author states that "hairs obtained by examination must be epilated, not cut." Dr. Esterly responded with the following clarification:
When obtaining hair from patients with tinea capitis for fungal culture, it is important to secure the infected follicular portion of the shaft. In patients with very little hair remaining in the infected patch, it may be impossible to grasp the hair with the forceps or tweezers. Under those circumstances, the root ends can be teased out of the follicular orifices with the tip of a scalpel blade. At times, the hairs are long enough to be epilated with a hemostat or tweezers. In these instances the hairs should be firmly grasped and the follicular portions removed for placement on agar for culture. Cut hairs are not adequate for culture because one misses the infected portion of the hair which is still embedded in the scalp.