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Donovanosis is a chronic, progressive bacterial infection that usually involves the genital region. The condition is generally regarded as a sexually transmitted infection of low infectivity. This infection has been known by many other names, the most common being granuloma inguinale.


The causative organism has been reclassified as Klebsiella granulomatis comb nov on the basis of phylogenetic analysis, although there is ongoing debate about this decision. Some authorities consider the original nomenclature (Calymmatobacterium granulomatis) to be more appropriate in light of analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences.

Donovanosis was first described in Calcutta in 1882, and the causative organism was recognized by Charles Donovan in Madras in 1905. He identified the characteristic Donovan bodies, measuring 1.5 × 0.7 μm, in macrophages and the stratum malpighii. The organism was not reproducibly cultured until the mid-1990s, when its isolation in peripheral-blood monocytes and human epithelial cell lines was reported.


image Donovanosis has an unusual geographic distribution that includes Papua New Guinea, parts of southern Africa, India, the Caribbean, French Guyana, Brazil, and aboriginal communities in Australia. In Australia, donovanosis has been almost entirely eliminated through a sustained program backed by strong political commitment and resources at the primary health care level. Although few cases are now reported in the United States, donovanosis was once prevalent in this country, with 5000–10,000 cases recorded in 1947. The largest epidemic recorded was in Dutch South Guinea, where 10,000 cases were identified in a population of 15,000 (the Marind-anim people) between 1922 and 1952.

Donovanosis is associated with poor hygiene and is more common in lower socioeconomic groups than in those who are better off and in men than in women. Infection in sexual partners of index cases occurs to a limited extent. Donovanosis is a risk factor for HIV infection (Chap. 97).

Globally, the incidence of donovanosis has decreased significantly in recent times. This decline probably reflects a greater focus on effective management of genital ulcers because of their role in facilitating HIV transmission.


A lesion starts as a papule or subcutaneous nodule that later ulcerates after trauma. The incubation period is uncertain, but experimental infections in humans indicate a duration of ~50 days. Four types of lesions have been described: (1) the classic ulcerogranulomatous lesion (Fig. 70-1), a beefy red ulcer that bleeds readily when touched; (2) a hypertrophic or verrucous ulcer with a raised irregular edge; (3) a necrotic, offensive-smelling ulcer causing tissue destruction; and (4) a sclerotic or cicatricial lesion with fibrous and scar tissue.


Ulcerogranulomatous penile lesion of donovanosis, with some hypertrophic features.

The genitals are affected in 90% of ...

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