A woman in the United Kingdom has the first case of “flesh-eating” sexually transmitted disease (STD) reported in the country. What is donovanosis?

First Case Of 'Flesh-Eating' STD In UK

As a part of an investigation on STDs in the United Kingdom, online pharmacy Chemist 4 U submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to hospitals in the country. What they found was that earlier in the year, a woman aged between 15 and 25 was diagnosed with donovanosis, the first reported case of the STD in the country.

It is not clearly specified how the woman contracted the disease or if she experienced any complications as a result of the illness.

What Is Donovanosis?

Donovanosis is caused by Klebsiella granulomatis and is transmitted mostly through anal or vaginal intercourse. It may also contracted through oral sex, although such instances are quite rare. In most cases, it is the genital and anal area that are affected, where small bumps appear and slowly turn into the beefy-red and velvety nodules that are painless but may bleed when injured. The disease gradually spreads and destroys genital tissue, causing the genitals and the skin around them to lose color.

While some call it a “flesh-eating STD,” it does not exactly behave like other flesh-eating bacteria that directly and aggressively destroy and kill tissue, but it causes lesions and ulcers that make the affected area have a red, beefy appearance. In the late stages, the disease may even cause symptoms to appear similar to those of genital cancer. If left untreated, the disease may cause tissue destruction, causing the flesh to rot away.

These, however, can be prevented with timely diagnosis and treatment.

Donovanosis Treatment

Donovanosis is treated using antibiotics such as azithromycin, doxycycline, and erythromycin. In most cases, such treatments may run for three weeks or until the sores have completely gone. However, long-term treatment may be required to completely cure the condition, and follow-up examinations may be required especially since the condition may reappear even after it appears to be already cured.

Some possible complications to donovanosis may include permanent genital swelling due to scarring, and loss of skin color or scarring and damage to the genital area.

How Common Is Donovanosis?

Most infections occur in people between the ages of 20 and 40, and men are more than twice as often to be affected than women. It is commonly found in tropical and subtropical countries such as in Guyana, India, and New Guinea, but it is considered quite rare in developed countries such as the United States. In fact, only a hundred people are known to be diagnosed with donovanosis in the country each year. In most of these cases, the people who have the disease travelled to or are actually from countries wherein the disease is considered common.

Like other STDs, the best way to prevent contracting donovanosis is abstinence from sexual activity, but safe sexual practices such as condom usage are also key in preventing the disease.

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