How Common Is Donovanosis?

Reviewed on 11/10/2021

Donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) is a rare disease sometimes called
Donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) is a rare disease sometimes called "the flesh-eating STD" (sexually transmitted disease) in the U.S. that causes genital ulcers. It is most commonly found in India, South Africa, and South America, and rarely, Australia.

Donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) is a disease caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis (formerly known as Calymmatobacterium granulomatis) that causes genital ulcers. 

Sometimes called "the flesh-eating STD" (sexually transmitted disease), Donovanosis is rare in the United States. Donovanosis tends to occur in subtropical and tropical regions such as India, South Africa, and South America, and rarely, Australia.

What Are Symptoms of Donovanosis?

Symptoms of donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) include: 

  • Painless ulcers on the genitals, anal region, or groin
  • Lumps grow slowly and become ulcers
  • Lesions are highly vascular, have a “beefy” red appearance, and can bleed easily
  • In some cases, the sores have a bad odor
  • Secondary bacterial infection can occur which may cause lesions to become painful

What Causes Donovanosis?

Donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) is caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis (formerly known as Calymmatobacterium granulomatis).

  • The bacteria are spread through direct contact with sores during sexual activity, usually vaginal or anal sex. A mother can also pass the bacteria on to her child during childbirth.
  • Everyone who is diagnosed with donovanosis should be tested for human immunodeficiency virus, because donovanosis increases the risk for contracting HIV.

How Is Donovanosis Diagnosed?

Diagnosis (granuloma inguinale) is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination. 

Laboratory testing includes:

  • A swab or biopsy from an ulcer
  • Tests to exclude other causes of genital ulcers, such as syphilis and genital herpes

What Is the Treatment for Donovanosis?

Treatment for donovanosis (granuloma inguinale) usually involves a prolonged course of antibiotics until all sores are healed. Sores will not go away on their own without treatment.  

Follow-up is important because relapses can occur within 6 to 18 months, even after apparently effective treatment, requiring re-treatment. 

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Reviewed on 11/10/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment-guidelines/donovanosis.htm

https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/conditions/infectious+diseases/donovanosis/donovanosis+%28granuloma+inguinale%29+-+including+symptoms+treatment+and+prevention