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First Case of Sexually Transmitted Fungal Infection Reported in the United States

  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes is a fungus that causes ringworm in people and in cats, dogs and other pets.

  • A subtype of this fungus can be acquired through sexual contact, according to the CDC.

  • In some parts of the world, this fungus is drug-resistant, but in the US, it still responds well to common antifungals.



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A sexually transmitted ringworm caused by a certain fungus has been reported for the first time in the United States.


“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,” study author Avrom Caplan, MD, a dermatologist and assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, said in a release.



What is Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII?

T. mentagrophytes is a common type of fungus that can cause ringworm in people, as well as in cats, dogs and other petsTrusted Source.


“It is one of the most common causes of ringworm, a contagious fungal infection of the skin, hair and nails,” said Bindu Balani, MD, an infectious disease specialist with Hackensack University Medical Center, who was not involved in the new research.

It can also cause athlete’s foot, jock itch, and barber’s itch, she told Healthline.


T. mentagrophytes genotype VII is a specific type of this fungus that can be sexually transmitted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cases of T. mentagrophytes genotype VII have been reported in other parts of the world, including in Southeast Asia and Europe.



First U.S. case of sexually transmitted fungus

In a report released June 5 in JAMA DermatologyTrusted Source, Caplan and his colleagues describe the first documented case in the United States of this sexually transmitted fungus.


The case involved a man in his 30s from New York City who developed an itchy rash on his genitals, buttocks, and limbs after returning from a trip to England, Greece, and California.


The man “reported multiple male sexual partners while traveling, none with a similar infection, and visited a sauna 2 months prior to developing skin lesions,” the researchers write.


Genetic tests confirmed that the fungus causing the rash was T. mentagrophytes genotype VII.


The man was treated for 4 weeks with the antifungal medication fluconazole with no response. He was then treated with the antifungals terbinafine and itraconazole, both of which improved his symptoms.


Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, MD, an infectious diseases physician and associate professor of medicine at UChicago Medicine, who was not involved in the new research, said this type of rash may look like jock itch or ringworm, typically a patch or patches of dry, scaly skin.


The researchers said this type of infection may also cause a rash that looks more like an eczema flare than a ringworm infection with the characteristic circular pattern on the skin.


While the infection is not fatal, it can cause permanent scarring, they added.

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