The first case of a rare sexually transmitted disease that causes flesh-eating ulcers to appear near one’s genitals has been diagnosed in the UK.

According to the Lancashire Post, the unidentified woman, who lives in Southport, England, was diagnosed with donovanosis within the past year. She is reportedly between the ages of 15 and 25.

The rare case was revealed after a Freedom of Information Act request was submitted by online pharmacy The website contacted several hospital trusts in the UK to figure out how many diagnoses of STDs had been reported, the ages of those diagnosed, their genders and what part of the country they were from. The effort was done as part of a research project dubbed “The Great British STI [sexually transmitted infection] Taboo”.

Although donovanosis, also known as granuloma inguinale, is treatable with antibiotics, infected persons should seek medical attention quickly. Even with antibiotic use, patients are still at risk of relapse for six to eight months post-treatment, UK news station KRON reported. The disease also poses a risk factor in the transmission of HIV, according to the CDC.


When contracted, donovanosis begins with small, painless ulcers on the genitals or perineum that slowly begin to grow into raised bumps that have a “beefy red appearance,” the CDC reports. The lesions also bleed very easily. Symptoms can begin to appear anywhere from one to 12 weeks after sexual intercourse with someone carrying the STD. In rare cases, donovanosis has been spread through oral sex, with sores appearing on the lips, gums, cheeks and in the throat.

If left untreated, ulcers continue to grow and destroy skin tissues, ultimately causing permanent scarring and irreversible genital swelling. In some cases, ulcers emit a “foul smell.”