Sexually Transmitted Disease Specialists
Granuloma inguinale (also known as Donovanosis) is caused by the bacteria Calymmatobacterium granulomatis. The disease is commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas such as Southeast Asia. It primarily spreads through vaginal and anal intercourse, although spread through oral sex is not unheard of. Symptoms can occur as later as 3 months after first exposure, making it difficult for the patient to associate the lesion with the exposure. Because lesions look very much like syphilitic lesions, this disease is often misdiagnosed.
Lesions usually start out as small, red bumps around the genitals or anus. The skin gradually wears away, and leaves behind red, velvety granulation tissue. It is usually painless (similiar to syphilis) but this tissue usually bleeds very easily. As the disease spreads, destruction of the genitals can occur (you read that correctly).
A special note to travelers, especially "hobbyists;" while rare in the United States, this disease is much more common in Southeast Asia. Most cases found in this country are probably related to foreign travel. If you have had any sexual encounter with natives in Southeast Asia, central Australia, New Guinea, the Caribbean or Guyana and develop lesions that look like syphilis or chancroid, it is imperative that you get the correct diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, as this disease can cause scarring and even destruction of genital tissue. It is a very invasive organism, and usually requires at least 3 weeks of treatment.