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Granuloma Inguinale (Donovanosis)

  • Author: Elizabeth K Satter, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Oct 20, 2015


Granuloma inguinale is a chronic bacterial infection that frequently is associated with other sexually transmitted diseases. Granuloma inguinale is characterized by intracellular inclusions in macrophages referred to as Donovan bodies. Granuloma inguinale usually affects the skin and mucous membranes in the genital region, where it results in nodular lesions that evolve into ulcers. The ulcers progressively expand and are locally destructive, as demonstrated in the image below.

Beefy-red penile ulcers. Beefy-red penile ulcers.


The intracellular organism responsible for granuloma inguinale was initially described by Donovan over a century ago, and subsequently, the bacterium was classified in 1913 as Calymmatobacterium granulomatis. Although Anderson suggested that the organism be eponymously named Donovania granulomatosis, Carter et al discovered that the molecular structure of the causative organism was similar to Klebsiella species and reclassified the gram-negative pleomorphic bacillus as Klebsiella granulomatis.[1, 2]

The mode of transmission of granuloma inguinale primarily occurs through sexual contact; however, it is hypothesized to have low infectious capabilities because repeated exposure is necessary for clinical infection to occur. Additionally, granuloma inguinale may also be obtained through the fecal route or by passage through an infected birth canal.




United States

Fewer than 100 cases of granuloma inguinale are reported annually, many of which are thought to be acquired during foreign travel.


Granuloma inguinale is rare in temperate climates, but it is common in the tropics and subtropics. Granuloma inguinale is endemic in Western New Guinea, the Caribbean, Southern India, South Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Brazil.


The incidence is higher in blacks than in whites in the United States. The incidence is higher in native persons than in Europeans in Western New Guinea. The incidence is higher in Hindus than in Muslims in India. These differences are more likely the result of disparities in socioeconomic status and living conditions than of a racial susceptibility.[3]


No sexual predominance is reported for granuloma inguinale.


Granuloma inguinale most commonly is seen in sexually active people aged 20-40 years.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Elizabeth K Satter, MD, MPH Dermatologist and Dermatopathologist

Elizabeth K Satter, MD, MPH is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Medical Womens Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Paul Krusinski, MD Director of Dermatology, Fletcher Allen Health Care; Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine

Paul Krusinski, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

James J Nordlund, MD Professor Emeritus, Department of Dermatology, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

James J Nordlund, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Sigma Xi, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jerry J Fasoldt, MD Head of Medical Department, Senior Flight Surgeon, Naval Operational Support Center

Jerry J Fasoldt, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Society of US Naval Flight Surgeons

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors, Clara-Dina Cokonis, Steven M. Manders, and Kari Williamson Boucher to the development and writing of this article. We also thank Hon Pak for the use of his clinical pictures.

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Beefy-red penile ulcers.
Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.
Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.
Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.
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