Here’s an STD You Probably Weren’t Aware of … One That Spreads a Flesh-Eating Infection

STD educational material is given out

A medical assistant brings STD educational material to a patient at a Planned Parenthood health center.| Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nobody wants to answer a call to the news they have a Sexually Transmitted Infection. But no two words that anyone knew they could hear combined were “flesh-eating” and “genitals.”

Turns that combination is now a reality thanks to donovanosis, a recently-discovered STD that researchers are warning sexually active individuals about. The STD is usually found in tropical countries but was recently reported in the Lancashire Post regarding a woman in the U.K. who was diagnosed.

What is donovanosis?

Donovanosis, otherwise known as granuloma inguinale, is caused by a bacteria that results in initially painless ulcers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that while the disease starts out painless, the ulcers may quickly become red and bleed. The bacterial then begins to devour the flesh around the genitals, ABC News reported.

You can also develop soft, itchy red nodules called subcutaneous granulomas or pseudobuboes, Forbes reported. This infection can spread to the rest of your pelvis, the organs in your abdomen, your bones, or your mouth.

How common is it?

Donovanosis is extremely rare in the U.S. so far with only about 100 cases reported per year. It’s more common in parts of the world like India, the Caribbean, central Australia, and southern Africa. The disease is not to be confused with Staph infections and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating diseases). Those spread rapidly, and while you could get necrotizing fasciitis on your genitals, donovanosis is different.

How can you prevent and treat donovanosis?

To prevent donovanosis, act as you would prevent any other STD — get regular testing, use protection, and use sound judgment with sexual partners. The only way to guarantee you’re STD-free is to abstain from sex.

You can treat donovanosis with various antibiotics including azithromycin and doxycycline. The sooner you treat the STD the better to avoid permanent damage, however, treatment is a long process. You may need to take antibiotics longer than the typical three-week period to completely heal any sores and scarring.

Pharmacist Shamir Patel stressed that other than safe sex practices, acting quickly is the most important step one can take in preventing the STD from becoming a full-on flesh-eating bacteria.”Donovanosis itself can be treated with antibiotics, time is of the essence,” he said, as: “Any delay could cause the flesh around the genitals to literally rot away.”