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New, Highly Contagious Sexually Transmitted Infection Spreading Overseas Has Arrived on U.S. Soil

  |   By Lou Dobbs Staff

A person with a ringworm infection. Credit: Getty Images

A new, highly contagious sexually transmitted infection that has been spreading throughout Europe and elsewhere has now arrived on U.S. soil.

As NBC News reported, a case report published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology revealed that a man in his 30s from New York City contracted a nasty skin infection after weeks of travel. During his time away from home, he engaged in sexual intercourse with multiple men during trips to England, Greece, and California.

When he got back, he developed a rash on his genitals, buttocks, and limbs.

Genetic testing on skin lesions identified the culprit as a fungal infection known as Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII (TMVII), a sexually transmitted form of ringworm. According to the CDC, TMVII VII is a difficult-to-treat fungus that causes skin disease in animals and humans and is acquired through sexual contact.

The report’s lead author, Dr. Jeff Caplan, wrote the rash may look more like an eczema flare than a ringworm infection, which usually forms in a circular pattern on the skin. This can potentially delay diagnosis in certain individuals.

Senior author Dr. John Zampella also noted that patients are often hesitant to discuss genital problems, raising the possibility of more TMVII infections than reported.

“Since patients are often reluctant to discuss genital problems, physicians need to directly ask about rashes around the groin and buttocks, especially for those who are sexually active, have recently traveled abroad, and report itchy areas elsewhere on the body,” he said.

Zampella said that infections caused by TMVII appear to respond to antifungal therapies such as terbinafine (also known as Lamisil), but can take months to clear up.

Caplan says the infection is not fatal but can lead to permanent scarring. Nonetheless, he warned that healthcare providers must be aware of the new infection.

“Healthcare providers should be aware that Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is the latest in a group of severe skin infections to have now reached the United States,” Caplan said.

TMVII has been on the rise in Europe with 13 cases in France last year. In these cases, almost all involved men having sex with men.

Cases of TMVII have also been reported in other areas of the globe, including Southeast Asia. These infections have also predominately involved men engaging in same-sex intercourse.

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