Donovanosis, The Neglected Disease

Also called Granuloma Inguinale, Donovanosis is a bacterial disease that causes lesions, ulcers, mutilation, and destruction of internal and external tissue, as well as leakage of mucous and blood. The destructive nature of this disease seriously increases the risk of contracting other diseases.

Donovanosis has reached endemis proportions in many underdeveloped regions of the world. Because of the scarcity of medical treatment, the disease is often neglected and allowed to reach morbid stages of development.

The malady commonly infects the lower abdominal region, including the genitalia. However, reports of the disease in other places like the oral cavity or above the abdomen have also been confirmed. Donovanosis refers to the detectable bacteria that have been encapsulated by histiocytes, a cell of the immune system.

Small, painless nodules appear after about 10 to 40 days of the contact with the bacteria. Later the nodules burst, creating open, fleshy, oozing lesions. The infection spreads, mutilating the infected tissue. The infection will continue to destroy the tissue until treated. These lesions occur at the region of contact typically found on the shaft of the penis, the labia, or the perianal region. In rare occasions, the vaginal wall or cervix are infected with lesions.

The lesion spreads from one region to another, whether it be on the same host or on a different host, through contact with the sores. Vaginal and anal intercourse are high risk behaviors to engage in with someone who is infected.

When consulting a doctor, the patient’s sexual history is requested. Experienced doctors are able to diagnose Donovanosis by merely looking at the ulcers. However, it may be necessary for the health care provider to take a tissue sample in order to correctly diagnose the disease.

Donovanosis can be cured through three weeks of treatment with erythromycin, streptomycin, or tetracycline. Twelve weeks of ampicillin is also a standard form of therapy. Normally, the infection will begin to subside with a week of treatment; however, a full treatment period must be followed in order to minimize relapse.

Since the disease is effectively treated with antibiotics, therefore developed countries have a very low incidence of Donovanosis. Approximately 100 cases are reported each year in the United States. However, sexual contact with individuals in regions where the disease is prevalent dramatically increases the risk of contracting the disease. Avoidance of these sexual contacts, and STD testing before beginning a sexual relationship are effective preventive measures for Donovanosis.

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