A fungal infection that usually affects only the skin but sometimes spreads to other parts of the body

  • Working with plants is a risk factor
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

The fungus that causes sporotrichosis, Sporothrix schenkii, normally grows on plants, especially moss and tree bark. Florists and gardeners are at particular risk of infection, which usually occurs when the fungus enters the skin, for example through injury with a thorn.

If a wound has become infected with the fungus, a reddened, painless lump usually develops 1–3 months later. The infection may spread, producing small lumps beneath the skin around the wound. In people with reduced immunity, such as those with AIDS (see HIV infection and AIDS) or people who are taking immunosuppressant drugs, the fungus may spread to other parts of the body, including the lungs and joints.

Diagnosis is usually obvious from the appearance of lumps below the skin and can be confirmed by a skin biopsy, in which a small sample of affected skin is removed for examination. In some cases, the infection clears up spontaneously. In otherwise healthy people, sporotrichosis is usually treated with antifungal drugs. If the infection is widespread in people with reduced immunity, long-term treatment with antifungal drugs may be necessary. In such cases, the disease can be difficult to eradicate.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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