A sexually transmitted infection, which causes flesh-eating ulcers to erupt on the genitals, has been diagnosed in the UK for the first time.
The rare STI, donovanosis, is usually only found in tropical countries and up until now, there had been no recorded breakouts in UK.
But, a Freedom of Information request from online pharmacy chemist-4-u.com found a woman, aged between 15 and 25, was diagnosed with the STI in Southport in the last 12 months.
According to Medline Plus Donovanosis, also known as granuloma inguinale, is caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis.
The disease spreads mostly through vaginal or anal intercourse. Very rarely, it spreads during oral sex.
Infections typically occur in the genital area, but they can also appear around the nose, mouth and chest. In all, there are four types of Donovanosis to be aware of.
Though Donovanosis itself can be treated with antibiotics, it is important to get treated as quickly as possible because as time goes on the infection could cause the flesh around the genitals to rot away.
What is donovanosis?
“This is actually a well-known condition but we’ve not called it Donovanosis in the past, it’s been called lymphogranuloma venereum,” explains Mr Ian Currie, consultant gynaecologist and women’s health expert at BMI The Chiltern Hospital in Buckinghamshire.
“It’s incredibly rare in the UK, and usually only found here in people who have been abroad to the countries where it’s endemic, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Guyana, India. It’s more prevalent in countries where people do not have access to effective healthcare and antibiotics.”
“It’s not a fast flesh-eating bug but it does present with ulcers in the genitals,” he continues.
Mr Currie says that people in the UK who have ulcers in their genitals are unlikely to have Donovanosis, but that’s not to say that they should not take their symptoms seriously because the ulcers could be a symptom of syphilis or herpes.
“Syphilis is on the increase over the past 10 years although it still accounts for around 2% of STIs. It starts with an ulcer on the genitals but although the ulcer can get better, the infection remains and can affect your brain and can cause problems for years,” he explains.
“Herpes sits in the nerve endings, like a coldsore, and can cause ulcers to flare up – you can’t get rid of it, but the ulcers themselves are not always present. You are only infectious to others when you have the lesions, but as the ulcers themselves can be tiny it does cause problems in regards to forming relationships.”
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