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Granuloma Inguinale (Donovanosis)

Jun 17, 1999

I heard about a bacteria named Calymmatobacterium granulomatis that I belive was consider partly a sexual diseas? Please write a few words about this disease. What is it? What are the general sympthoms? When should one get tested for it? What type of tests are used?

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Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question and your complements about our website.

What you are referring to here is an STD called Granuloma Inguinale (also known as Donovanosis). This disease is caused by a bacteria called Calymmatobacterium granulomatis (Donovania granulomatis).

This STD is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas of the world, including Papua New Guinea, Australia (central and northern areas), southern India, Latin America, Africa (central, eastern, and southern regions), and the Caribbean islands. This STD is very rare in the United States, Europe, and other industrialized (Western) nations. This disease is more frequently found in males, people in the 20-40 age group, and among people of lower socioeconomic status.

Symptoms of granuloma inguinale most likely begin 1-16 weeks after infection. This disease causes open lesions (ulcers) in warm, moist areas of the body. The lesions may be painless, bleed easily on contact, and have a "beefy red" appearance. These lesions most commonly occur in the genital area (90% of cases), inguinal area (10% of cases), anal area (5-10% of cases), and rarely other parts of the body as well (1-5% of cases). Left untreated, this disease can cause extensive destruction and damage of the genitals.

Granuloma inguinale is most often infectious when lesions are present. It is transmitted by direct contact with the lesions during sexual activity. When having sex with an infected person, it has been estimated that only 20% to 65% of sexual partners actually get infected.

This can sometimes be a difficult disease to diagnose. Tissue smears and biopsies have to be performed looking for "Donovan bodies" in the specimens, which are considered diagnostic of the disease. Since the symptoms of granuloma inguinale are similar to that of other STDs (such as chancroid and syphilis), and since the lesions may be coinfected with other STDs (such as syphilis and gonorrhea), testing for other STDs is very important in suspected cases of granuloma inguinale.

This disease is treatable with certain antibiotics. Prolonged therapy may be required to allow complete healing to occur. Even with effective treatment, a relapse may occur 6-18 months later. Sexual partners of people diagnosed with granuloma inguinale should be treated if they had sexual contact with the source patient within 60 days prior to the onset of symptoms in the source patient. Sexual partners should also be treated if they have symptoms suggestive of this disease.

If a person has symptoms similar to that of granuloma inguinale, and that person has had sexual contact in an area where this disease is usually found (see above), then testing for this STD should be considered. However, if a person has not had sexual contact in any of these places, then it would be highly unlikely that the person would have this STD.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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