(NEXSTAR) – A rare “flesh-eating” sexually transmitted disease is making waves online after a doctor in the United Kingdom warned that it was starting to appear more often in that country.
Granuloma inguinale, also known as donovanosis, is a genital ulcerative disease caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC says donovanosis causes painless “beefy red” lesions on the genitals that can bleed. These spreading, bleeding lesions led many to call the STD “flesh-eating,” although it does not actually eat the flesh as it spreads.
The rare disease is mostly found in India, South Africa, and South America, but received much attention online after Dr. Karan Raj posted about it on his popular TikTok account. Raj called donovanosis “terrifying” and noted cases are rising in the UK.
Donovanosis is still rare in the U.S. and can be treated with antibiotics, according to the CDC, but relapses can occur 6–18 months after apparently effective therapy.
Gynecologist Dr. Shree Datta told The Sun that the lesions caused by the disease are a known risk factor for the transmission of HIV, and that “severe cases can lead to permanent scarring and damage to the genitals, as well as discoloration and even irreversible swelling, so this is definitely one to watch.”
She added: “Using contraception significantly reduces the risk of contracting the disease.”