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Rare ‘flesh eating’ sexually transmitted infection becoming more common in UK

A Yale epidemiology experts calls the infection, donovanosis, a ‘small-scale concern right now’ that potentially could become more common. 

Dr. Melinda Pettigrew, a Yale epidemiology professor, said donovanosis “is currently very rare in the U.S., but there are sporadic cases. But any increases in numbers are potentially concerning. Sexually transmitted infections are often undiagnosed, and there may be missed infections so the true number could be slightly higher.”
Dr. Melinda Pettigrew, a Yale epidemiology professor, said donovanosis “is currently very rare in the U.S., but there are sporadic cases. But any increases in numbers are potentially concerning. Sexually transmitted infections are often undiagnosed, and there may be missed infections so the true number could be slightly higher.”
Yale School of Public Health

A flesh-eating sexually transmitted infection that causes “beefy red” ulcers, though extremely rare, is becoming more prevalent in the United Kingdom.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the infection, called donovanosis, is most common in parts of India, Papua New Guinea, central Australia and the Caribbean and southern Africa.

But research in Britain suggests the number of cases of donovanosis has been steadily growing there, too, since 2016. The numbers are nowhere near the prevalence of other STDs — only 30 cases occurred in the UK in 2019, according to public health records. But the potential for more infections in the past two years — that data haven’t been released yet — has raised concerns, especially since it was even rarer in the UK until five years ago.

Dr. Melinda Pettigrew, a professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, said she sees donovanosis as a “small-scale concern right now.”

“Donovanosis is currently very rare in the U.S.,” Pettigrew said, “but there are sporadic cases.

“But any increases in numbers are potentially concerning,” she said. “Sexually transmitted infections are often undiagnosed, and there may be missed infections so the true number could be slightly higher.”

The bacterial infection causes thick sores in the genital region. It doesn’t actually eat flesh but has been called “flesh-eating” due to its gory appearance.

“The initial symptoms — genital ulcers with a bright red color — are painless but should not be ignored,” Pettigrew said, and anyone with those symptoms should see a doctor.

It’s generally transmitted through unprotected sex but also can be contracted through non-sexual skin-on-skin contact.

Antibiotics are used to treat donovanosis, including azithromycin, doxycycline, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Treatment courses typically run three weeks or until the sores have completely healed. A long-term treatment is needed to cure the disease.

Read more at USA Today.