Cases of 'Flesh-Eating' STI That Causes 'Beefy Red' Ulcers Growing in UK

Donovanosis, a "flesh-eating" sexually transmitted infection that has been known to cause "beefy red" ulcers, has become a cause for concern in the UK.

Computer illustration of the STI known as donovanosis.

Bacteria of donovanosis infection.

Computer illustration of the STI known as donovanosis.

Cases of a “flesh-eating” sexually transmitted infection that causes “beefy red” ulcers have been steadily rising in the United Kingdom over the last few years, per USA TODAY. 

report by Birmingham Live suggests that while there were only 30 known cases of donovanosis in the United Kingdom in 2019, there is some concern over the expectation of an increased number of infections over the last two years once data is released. Once believed to be more common in countries with more humid climates, like India and Papua New Guinea, donovanosis has become more prevalent in the UK. 

“Figures suggest that donovanosis — which was previously thought to be restricted to places including India, Brazil and New Guinea — is becoming more common on these shores,” Dr. Datta of MyHealthCare Clinic in London, said. 

Dr. Melinda Pettigrew, professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, classified donovanosis as “extremely rare” and a “small scale concern right now,” but wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the STI could eventually find its way to the United States. 

“Donovanosis is currently very rare in the U.S. as well but there are sporadic cases,” Pettigrew said. “However, other sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the US.” 

Donovanosis is contracted through unprotected sex, but also non-sexual skin-on-skin contact. The STI’s “flesh-eating” description stems from the appearance of “beefy red” ulcers typically found in the genital region. About half of cases have seen sores in the anal area. These bright red sores are usually painless, but they do gradually damage genital tissue. 

According to Medline Plus, symptoms of the donovanosis can happen anywhere between one to 12 weeks. The STI can be treated with antibiotics that could last upwards of three weeks, or once the sores are completely healed. Follow-up examinations are required since the infection can reappear, even when it appears to be fully healed. 


Latest in Life