Science & Tech

Rare fungal STI detected in the US for the first time

Rare fungal STI detected in the US for the first time

Rare fungal STI detected in the US for the first time

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For the first time, a highly contagious form of ringworm that can spread via sexual contact, has been identified in the United States.

Ringworm is a skin infection caused by a variety of fungi, in this case, it's a fungus called Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII (TMVII) that is casing the STI. It has previously been identified in Southeast Asia and Europe. But now, doctors in New York City have reported what they believe to be the first U.S. case of the infection.

The man, in his 30s, had developed scaly red patches around his groin, genitals, legs, arms, and back, and had returned to New York after travelling to England, Greece and California. He told doctors he had multiple male sexual partners whilst travelling but none had similar rashes.

A skin biopsy from the man's thigh confirmed he had ringworm, and he was prescribed an anti fungal treatment, however the infection didn't clear up after a month, so doctors took a sample. The sample showed the man had TMVII. After the anti fungal regimen was then adjusted, he steadily improved.

TMVII infections can take months to clear even with medication. However, the antifungal drug terbinafine seems to be the most effective, according to a paper published by the doctors who first reported the case.

"Dermatologists in the U.S. should be aware of TMVII infections," the doctors wrote in their report. "Prompt treatment may reduce the risk for scarring and transmission." TMVII looks similar to typical ringworm, but it can be more inflammatory and thus cause abscesses and scarring if untreated.

In order to find more cases, doctors need to be more direct with their patents, the clinicians wrote.

"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," senior study author Dr. John Zampella, an associate professor of dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, said in a statement.

It is important to note that researchers have stressed whilst the fungi has been detected in the U.S., the infection rates in the country are still very low.

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