Should US Worry Concerning the ‘Flesh Eating’ STI Donovanosis?

In late October 2021, accounts of a “flesh eating” sexually transmitted an infection circulated in worldwide media publications when it was reported that instances had been on the rise within the United Kingdom. 

An article revealed on Oct. 21 by Birmingham Live, a tabloid newspaper primarily based in England, reported that docs had been “warning” of the an infection, describing it as “terrifying” due to its capability to “eat human flesh.” 

“Though donovanosis cases remain relatively rare when compared with other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and diseases (STDs), they have been steadily rising and pose a genuine risk to public health,” learn the Birmingham Live article. 

And within the days that adopted, the declare took off like a bacterial an infection as media shops, together with USA Today and Fox News, contributed to considerations surrounding the prevalence of the illness each within the U.Okay. and within the U.S. But many headlines and social media posts had been extra alarmist than maybe was warranted. 

While it’s true that such an STI exists, an infection charges are nonetheless uncommon.  

Donovanosis, or granuloma inguinale, is described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a “genital ulcerative disease” attributable to a bacterium referred to as Klebsiella granulomatis

“The disease occurs rarely in the United States; however, sporadic cases have been described in India, South Africa, and South America,” wrote the CDC. “Although granuloma inguinale was previously endemic in Australia, it is now extremely rare.” 

A microscopic take a look at donovanosis. Public Domain

Typically unfold via vaginal or anal intercourse, an infection is characterised by painless sores or lesions on the genitals that exhibit a “beefy red appearance” that may bleed. (You can view pictures of those ulcers right here, right here, and right here. Fair warning, they’re graphic.) These “snake-like” lesions can even progress exterior of the genital space to the pelvis, organs, bones, or mouth and can even develop secondary bacterial infections which will coexist with different sexually transmitted pathogens. Infection is troublesome to tradition, and analysis usually requires {that a} medical skilled gather a biopsy from the ulcer or a tissue smear and take a look at it underneath a microscope. 

Donovanosis is extra frequent in locations like India, Brazil and New Guinea. And whereas it might be on the rise within the U.Okay. and U.S., it’s nonetheless much less frequent than different bacterial STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. In truth, the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates that there are about 100 instances reported annually, most of which happen in individuals who have traveled to or are from locations the place the illness is frequent, largely in folks between 20 and 40 years outdated. As The Washington Post reported, these numbers had been equally as low within the U.Okay. Between 2016 and 2020, there have been between 18 and 20 instances detected in England yearly. 

“Eighteen infections were logged in 2020, down from 30 in 2019, as widespread social distancing curbed its spread, along with those of other STIs,” wrote the publication. 

Though uncommon, an infection could be power, and relapse can happen between six and 18 months after seemingly profitable remedy, which usually contain a prescription of antibiotics like azithromycin or doxycycline. 

But as a result of donovanosis is extra frequent in low-income nations, the science surrounding an infection, transmission, and remedy stays missing.

“Although the disease has been described for more than a century, it is often overlooked due to its geographical distribution and low incidence. Therefore, it is not surprising that there are few published data on its incidence, even in endemic areas,” wrote Brazilian Professor of Dermatology Walter Belda Junior in a 2020 concern of the Brazilian Society of Dermatology’s scientific journal, Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia.

The Birmingham Live article didn’t give a proof as to why instances of donovanosis had been rising, however a 2021 article revealed within the on-line academic medical library StatPearls famous that incidence had been lowering worldwide “most likely due to the realized role in HIV transmission.” HIV an infection prolongs the therapeutic time of donovanosis and since ulcers typically bleed simply, they enhance the danger of additionally changing into contaminated or transmitting HIV. As international well being initiatives targeted on eradicating HIV within the final a number of a long time, instances of donovanosis have subsequently additionally largely decreased around the globe. 

Experts suggest that an individual identified with donovanosis keep away from contact and sexual exercise till the sores are healed. If an individual had intercourse with a identified affected person inside 60 days earlier than onset of signs, they need to be examined and given remedy.  


“A ‘Flesh Eating’ STI Causing ‘beefy Red’ Sores Is Becoming More Common. Should Americans Worry?” USA TODAY, being/2021/10/25/flesh-eating-sti-donovanosis-becoming-more-common-uk/6171385001/. Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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