'Flesh-Eating' STI Reportedly Confirmed in the UK

Known as granuloma inguinale or donovanosis, the STI is caused by a bacteria and rarely occurs in the US.

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Aug 23 2018, 7:05pm

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A woman in Southport, UK, caught a rare sexually transmitted infection that basically sounds like a worst-case scenario genital nightmare. Reportedly, it is caused by a bacteria that can make the genitals “rot away.”

Called granuloma inguinale or “donovanosis,” this STI is caused by a bacteria and rarely occurs in the US. It’s more common in some tropical areas, such as the Caribbean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Donovanosis symptoms include typically painless lesions on and/or near the genital area that have a “beefy red appearance” and bleed.

The lesions caused by the infection can be halted and healed with antibiotic treatment, though the CDC says relapse can occur “after apparently effective therapy.”

The case of the young woman in the UK who was diagnosed with donovanosis within the last year is reportedly between the ages of 15 and 25. The case was reportedly revealed via a Freedom of Information request made by chemist-4-u.com, an online pharmacy, to hospital trusts in the UK.


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“This is a very rare and nasty condition, and it could be one of the first times it has been recorded in the UK,” the website’s pharmacist Shamir Patel told the Liverpool Echo.

A 2006 article in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections, however, referenced that donovanosis “is rarely reported in the United Kingdom and patients seen are likely to have lived in one of the main endemic areas.”

“Although antibiotics can treat donovanosis, early-stage cases might be going undiagnosed because it's so uncommon in the UK,” Patel explained. Getting treated early is essential to minimizing progression of the infection, though.

Patel said that the bacteria that infects the skin in this STI can lead to “skin disintegration as the flesh effectively consumes itself.”

This story originally appeared on VICE Canada.

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