Please stop freaking out about ‘flesh-eating’ sexually transmitted infections


Recent headlines might have you ever questioning in case your genitals are prone to rotting off. That’s okay—it’s completely pure to really feel confused by experiences of a “flesh-eating” sexually transmitted infection. But earlier than you freak out, take a deep breath and take a look at the info.

Did the UK see its first ever case of a horrific venereal illness?


But I learn that the UK simply noticed its first ever case of a horrific venereal illness.

Here’s what really occurred: someday within the final 12 months, a lady in Southport, England was recognized with a case of Donovanosis. Caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis, Donovanosis typically causes painless ulcers across the genitals. It’s straightforward to confuse with syphilis or herpes. It’s additionally straightforward to deal with with antibiotics.

Left unchecked, the ulcerations can unfold and eat away at healthy tissue—that is what occurs when many kinds of bacterial infections in your pores and skin go untreated. This isn’t a destiny generally related to Donovanosis, neither is it a destiny distinctive to Donovanosis (or, for that matter, sexually transmitted infections). “Flesh-eating” is only a scary means of claiming an an infection is destroying tissue. Left completely untreated, Donovanosis could be harmful. But completely untreated, gonorrhea and chlamydia will also be harmful. So can a sore throat.

“Lesions related to the illness can develop and unfold and destroy surrounding tissue. So the
bacterial an infection may cause tissue demise. Using the time period ‘flesh eating’ to explain this… undoubtedly an attention grabber. Not completely correct,” mentioned a spokesperson from the American Sexual Health Association.

Some articles are additionally citing a link between Donovanosis and HIV, however that’s simply because having intercourse with an open wound (which is what an ulcer is) in your genitals makes it a lot simpler so that you can get a bloodborne illness. If you’ve received ulcers or cuts of any kind in your genitals, it’s completely not a superb time to have unprotected intercourse. Again, not distinctive to Donovanosis!

“It should be noted that other far more common bacterial infections, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, can also cause long-term damage if left untreated, like pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. Since many STIs often have no symptoms to suggest you might be infected, regular STI screening is important,” the ASHA spokesperson mentioned.

But I’ve by no means heard of Donovanosis. Is it new?

Nope! It’s most typical in tropical international locations, however there are about 100 cases in the United States each year. It largely exhibits up when vacationers deliver it residence from trip.

Even the widely-cited article claiming that this is the UK’s first-ever reported case contains this quote from a spokesperson for Public Health England: “Donovanosis primarily occurs in tropical countries or regions of the Americas, Southern Africa and Oceania. It is very rarely diagnosed and reported in the UK.”

I’m not a physician, however very hardly ever reported isn’t the identical as never-before reported. This isn’t a brand new illness, and there’s no proof that it’s in any means on the rise or on the transfer. There was one case of it within the UK someday within the final yr.

Why is that this case within the information? Is it as a result of medical doctors say we needs to be apprehensive?


The news reports stem from a marketing campaign by, which sought out hospital information on sexually transmitted an infection to analysis ‘The Great British STI Taboo.’

It is unclear why this firm thought that spreading rumors about a illness with international origins that may make your genitals rot off would assist battle nationwide STI taboos. didn’t reply to request for remark.

Should I be apprehensive?

No greater than common! You ought to all the time observe secure intercourse (condoms! Use condoms!) once you aren’t completely optimistic about your companion’s present invoice of health, it doesn’t matter what you’ve learn in on-line tabloids about necrotizing STIs. Definitely don’t take a trip from sexual hygiene once you go on vacation (condoms! Bring condoms!), it doesn’t matter what you’ve learn you could or might not decide up within the nation you’re visiting. But a case of Donovanosis within the UK isn’t a cause to be extra freaked out by STIs than it’s best to have been yesterday.

Infections occur! They would possibly occur to you. Do your finest to forestall them by being good, utilizing safety, and speaking brazenly along with your sexual companions. And if you happen to’ve received unfamiliar ulcers in your pants (or, fairly frankly, anyplace else) go see a physician.

“Remember, think horses, not zebras,” ASHA’s spokesperson mentioned. “Genital herpes and syphilis are far more common.” (And both means: you’re going to be okay!)

Why are individuals freaking out?

Great query! Sexually transmitted infections are extremely stigmatized, which makes them nice fodder for concern mongering, clickbait headlines. It’s additionally comprehensible that folks could be icked out by the phrase “flesh-eating,” as a result of most individuals like their tissue to stay alive, on their our bodies, and never visibly devoured by micro organism. Finally, it’s tough to think about this story would have a lot thunder with out the implication that Donovanosis is sneaking in from international international locations. Unfortunately, human brains have a deeply ingrained bias in opposition to what we see as “them”—outsiders who would possibly jeopardize the health of our communities with their unfamiliar germs. This might have protected our ancestors, but it surely’s fairly absurd now that anybody can fly anyplace and catch something.

The charges of different, more common STIs are on the rise in many communities, as is antibiotic resistance, which might restrict our choices for combatting future infections. There have been 1.59 million circumstances of chlamydia reported within the United States in 2016—a quantity that may be a entire lot extra worrisome than 100 circumstances of Donovanosis.

If you’re troubled, attempt to do one thing productive with that concern: observe secure intercourse and demand the identical of your companions. Making your fellow people really feel gross or responsible for having STIs doesn’t make individuals much less more likely to get them—it simply makes them much less more likely to search therapy.


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