Sporotrichosis: what it is, symptoms, treatments and prevention

What is Sporotrichosis?

Sporotrichosis is a subcutaneous mycosis caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii that can attack humans and animals. It usually affects the skin and the lymph vessels near it, but it can also affect bones, lungs and joints.

This fungus is present in most parts of the world, but mainly in regions of temperate and tropical climate, such as Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Because it inhabits nature, S. Schenckii is present in soil, vegetables and wood, and can reach both humans and animals. Its spread is slow and the symptoms are characterized by purulent nodules or not and that usually appear in the upper limbs, such as arms and hands, and also on the face.

The disease was first described in 1898 by the American Benjamin Schenck and its greatest epidemic related to zoonotic transmission was described in Rio de Janeiro, where, between 1998 and 2004, 1503 cats, 64 dogs and 759 humans were diagnosed with sporotrichosis .

How is the disease transmitted?

As the fungus is constantly in open environments, mainly in the soil, sporotrichosis can be transmitted through open wounds that have contact with some contaminated material, such as wood splinters or plant thorns. Another form of contamination is through contact with contaminated animals, mostly cats, through bites, scratches or as a result of handling these wounds that contain a large amount of fungi.

In addition to these two forms of transmission, the disease can also be contracted by inhaling the fungus, but it is very rare to happen and affects mainly immunosuppressive people. There are no cases of transmission of sporotrichosis from one person to another.

How is the disease progressing and what are its symptoms?

The evolution of sporotrichosis can be in two ways: subacute or chronic – which happens in most cases. Usually, the infection is benign and is limited only to the skin, but there are cases where it spreads through the bloodstream and reaches the bones and internal organs.

The incubation period of the fungus in the patient’s body is from 7 to 30 days, and can reach up to 6 months after infection. The symptoms of the disease vary according to how it manifests, that is, whether it is cutaneous or extracutaneous, but the first to appear is a small painful lump, much like an insect bite. This nodule may be red, pink or purple, purulent or not, and usually appears on the finger, hand or arm into which the fungus has penetrated.

In extracutaneous sporotrichosis, as the fungus can affect several areas of the body, the symptoms vary according to the one that was affected. For example, when it affects the lungs, the symptoms are very similar to those of tuberculosis, and when it affects the bones and joints, the symptoms are similar to that of an infectious arthritis .

Among the cutaneous forms of the disease, it can present in 3 different types and you can see what are the symptoms of each one below.

Cutaneous-localized form

Cutaneous-localized sporotrichosis is characterized by a reddish nodule and can be hard with a rough or ulcerated surface. In addition to the upper limbs, this form of the disease can also affect mucous membranes, such as the eyes and mouth.

Cutaneous-lymphatic form

Cutaneous-lymphatic sporotrichosis is the most frequent form of the disease and is characterized by an ulcerated nodule, which forms a hardened cord from the lymph vessel to the ganglia. Along this cord, other nodules are formed and can also ulcerate.

Cutaneous-disseminated form

Nodular lesions that present in the cutaneous-disseminated form of sporotrichosis spread throughout the skin and are more common to occur in immunocompromised patients.

What is the diagnosis? And how is the treatment for sporotrichosis?

Any suspicion of sporotrichosis, the patient should consult with a dermatologist to diagnose you correctly. The diagnosis is made, first, from the analysis of the symptoms that the disease presents and, after that, biological materials that the wound produces, such as pus and scarification, are examined. The disease is curable and, in 10% of cases, it happens naturally. However, for more severe cases, the treatment is long and takes around 3 to 6 months, and can reach up to 1 year.

Several medications can be used in the treatment, such as potassium iodide , the first effective drug used to treat sporotrichosis – but which can be accompanied by numerous side effects. Because of this, the most advisable medication by specialists is itraconazole . In addition to these two drugs, there is the possibility of treatment being based on:

  • Built ;
  • Fluconazole ;
  • Amphotericin B .

Keep in mind that the choice of these drugs is made only by a specialist in skin diseases and happens from the clinical picture of each patient.

Attention! 

NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

How can I prevent myself from the disease? Are there any complications if not handled correctly?

Some possible complications may appear during or after treatment for sporotrichosis and they are divided into two groups: complications for people who have normal immunity and for those who are immunosuppressive.

For the first group, two complications may eventually arise:

  • Discomfort;
  • Secondary skin infections.

For the second group, people can develop the following complications:

  • Arthritis;
  • Bone infection;
  • Complications due to medications;
  • Pulmonary and respiratory problems, such as pneumonia;
  • Meningitis.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against sporotrichosis. Because of this, to reduce the risk of contracting the disease, it is important to wear protective clothing when handling the garden or other materials that may be contaminated with the causative fungus.

If your pet has the disease, it is advisable that he is isolated so that he receives the proper treatment. Another important precaution to be taken is that, in case of death of the animal with sporotrichosis, the body is cremated and not buried, so that the fungus does not spread through the soil and other animals can be contaminated.

In addition, sharing this article with relatives and friends is of fundamental importance, because the more people have access to this information, the better and more quickly the disease will be prevented.

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