Reports of a so-called "flesh-eating" sexually transmitted infection (STI) are doing the rounds after the disease has reportedly been diagnosed in the UK for the first time. If, by any chance, all of this sounds pretty unpleasant to you, here’s everything you need to know about it.
Multiple UK news outlets are reporting that a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, submitted by online pharmacy Chemist 4 U, has revealed that a woman in Stockport was diagnosed with Donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) earlier this year.
Donovanosis is spread through having unprotected sex with an infected person, although it is possible to transmit the infection from mother-to-child and by casual contact, according to the Australasian Sexual Health Alliance. Like all STIs, donovanosis can be prevented by practicing safe sex – use a condom. If you do become infected, the infection can be treated using a course of antibiotics.
As you might have guessed, the disease isn’t exactly “flesh-eating”, per say. However, it can cause some extremely nasty genital ulcers and lesions that give the impression your flesh is rotting. The ulcers start off small and painless, but can eventually deepen and spread around the genital area. The lesions are also full of blood vessels, so they’re usually a deep red color and can be prone to bleeding. Due to the ulcers, the disease has been described as a “significant co-factor in facilitating HIV transmission.”
In one very extreme case, an infected person’s penis literally fell off, a process known as auto-amputation, due to the trauma caused by the lesions. However, this man had tested positive for HIV-2 and had left the infection untreated for at least six years.
While this infection is almost unheard of in the UK, the US has around 100 cases of donovanosis each year. It’s most common in tropical and subtropical areas, such as India, Papua New Guinea, the Caribbean, central Australia, and southern Africa. The largest known epidemic of the infection occurred in Papua New Guinea between 1922 and 1952, when around 10,000 cases were found in a community of just 15,000 people.
So, in short, donovanosis is not exactly "flesh-eating", although it is a fairly unpleasant condition. Nevertheless, if you practice safe sex, you shouldn't have too much to worry about. If you do catch the infection, a straightforward course of antibiotics should have you covered.