Rare, Nasty STD Causing "Beefy Red" Ulcers Resurfaced in England This Year

Fortunately, there was just one case.

Unsplash / Jesper Aggergaard

As if antibiotic-resistant super-STDs weren’t enough of a problem in 2018, this year also saw a rare case of the uncommon infection known as Donovanosis, which can leave its victims with a rash of angry, smelly ulcers around the groin. Fortunately, the disease did not spread, only affecting one victim: an unnamed woman in Southport, England, somewhere between the ages of 15 and 25.

In August, the English newspaper the Lancashire Post reported that a freedom of information request submitted by the online pharmacy had turned up the Donovanosis diagnosis from public health records.

This is #22 on Inverse’s list of the 25 Most WTF stories of 2018.

It seemed to be an isolated case, but it was nevertheless bizarre. As Inverse reported at the time, “Donovanosis, also known as granuloma inguinale, is incredibly rare outside of what a BMJ report calls certain ‘hotspots’, in particular Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Australia, and parts of India and Brazil.” The disease, says the CDC, “occurs rarely in the United States.”

The small cylindrical bacteria shown here are examples of Klebsiella granulomatis, which causes Donovanosis.


It’s very fortunate that the disease did not spread, as Donovanosis can get extremely nasty if not treated quickly with antibiotics. Caused by infection with the bacteria Klebsiella granulomatis, Donovanosis manifests as red bumps around the anus or large sores that the CDC refers to as having a “beefy red” appearance.

Learn more about antibiotic-resistant super-gonorrhea, a far more common and dangerous STD than Donovanosis, in the video below.

Because these untreated ulcers — open, wet sores — can spread to cover the genitals en masse, Donovanosis was widely characterized as a “flesh eating” disease by the media when the news first broke. It did not help that Shamir Patel, a pharmacist for, told the Liverpool Echo that “Any delay [in treatment] could cause the flesh around the genitals to literally rot away.” This is perhaps an exaggerated description: While the disease (like many other STDs) can destroy tissue and cause open sores, the effect is not as extreme as “literally rotting away” or “flesh eating” might suggest.

Nevertheless, infection with the bacteria can, if untreated spread upward from the genitals to the pelvis and even affect the organs in the abdomen, the bones, and the mouth.

Since August, no other cases of Donovanosis have made the news, leaving scientists time to tackle a far more commonly spread and dangerous threat: antibiotic-resistant super-gonorrhea.

As 2018 draws to a close, Inverse is counting down the 25 stories that made us go WTF. Some are gross, some are amazing, and some are just, well, WTF. In our ranking from least to most WTF, this has been #22. Read the original article here.

Watch the full 25 WTF countdown in the video below.

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