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Sporotrichosis: Causes, Types, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Mar 03, 2023   -  4 min read


Sporotrichosis is a rare fungal infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix that can affect humans and animals. Read the article to know more.


Sporotrichosis outbreaks in the United States have occurred among people who have come into contact with sphagnum moss or hay, such as tree nurseries, forestry workers, garden center workers, and people who work with or play on hay bales. Sporotrichosis outbreaks have also been reported in Australia, Brazil, China, Guatemala, and South Africa, among other places. Anyone concerned about an unusually high number of new cases should contact their state or local public health agency. A sporotrichosis outbreak is ongoing in some Brazilian cities, where the infection has become prevalent in outdoor cats and spreads to humans through bites or scratches.

What Is Sporotrichosis?

Sporotrichosis is an infection caused by Sporothrix, a fungus. It is also called rose gardener's disease. People contract sporotrichosis when they contact fungal spores in the environment. The most common type of infection is a cutaneous (skin) infection. The fungus can enter the skin through a small cut or scratch, usually after touching contaminated plant matter.

What Causes Sporotrichosis?

The Sporothrix schenckii fungus causes sporotrichosis. This type of fungus is found all over the world, but it may be more prevalent in Central and South America. The fungus can be found in rose bushes, hay, and moss, according to the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC). People who work with these plants or in their surrounding soil regularly may be exposed to the fungus. However, exposure does not guarantee they will develop a fungal infection.

S. schenckii, unlike other dimorphic fungi, is usually not inhaled but enters the human body through small abrasions and cuts in the skin. In rare cases, the fungus could be inhaled or ingested, causing infection in areas other than the skin. However, sporotrichosis does not appear to be a contagious disease and does not spread from person to person.

What Are The Different Types Of Sporotrichosis?

  • Cutaneous (Skin) Sporotrichosis: The most common type of infection is cutaneous (skin) sporotrichosis. It usually appears on a person's hand or arm after contacting contaminated plant matter.

  • Pulmonary (Lung) Sporotrichosis: Although pulmonary (lung) sporotrichosis is uncommon, it can occur when a person inhales the fungal spores from the environment.

  • Disseminated Sporotrichosis: When an infection spreads to other body parts, such as the bones, joints, or central nervous system, it is called disseminated sporotrichosis. This type of sporotrichosis typically affects people with health problems or who take medications that reduce the body's ability to fight against microbes and sickness, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) patients.

Who Is At Risk Of The Disease?

Sporotrichosis primarily affects people who work with specific plants and the soil around them, such as:

  • Farmers.

  • Florists.

  • Gardeners.

  • People that work at plant nurseries.

  • People who handle bales of hay.

  • Carpenters.

People with a weak immune system or other diseases, such as diabetes, alcoholism, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or HIV, are more likely to develop severe forms of sporotrichosis (affecting bones or joints, lungs, or central nervous system).

What Are The Symptoms Of Sporotrichosis?

Sporotrichosis symptoms vary depending on where the fungus grows in the body.

1. Cutaneous Sporotrichosis:

Sporotrichosis most commonly affects the skin or the tissues beneath the skin. The first symptom of cutaneous sporotrichosis is typically a tiny painless bump that appears between 1 and 12 weeks after fungus exposure. The bump may be red, pink, or purple and usually appears on the finger, hand, or arm where the fungus has entered through a skin break. The bump will gradually grow larger and resemble an open sore or ulcer, which takes a long time to heal. Additional bumps or sores may appear near the original one later.

2. Pulmonary Spirotrichosis:

Pulmonary (lung) sporotrichosis is uncommon. Symptoms include:

  • Cough.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Chest pain.

  • Fever.

3. Disseminated Sporotrichosis:

The symptoms of disseminated sporotrichosis vary according to the body part affected. For example, a joint infection can cause joint pain mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis. Central nervous system infections can cause difficulty thinking, headaches, and seizures.

How Is Sporotrichosis Diagnosed?

The doctor will collect a skin biopsy and send it to the lab to diagnose sporotrichosis. If the doctor suspects pulmonary sporotrichosis, a blood test may be advised. Blood tests can sometimes aid in diagnosing severe forms of cutaneous sporotrichosis.

How Is Sporotrichosis Treated?

Antifungals such as oral Itraconazole and supersaturated Potassium iodide are used to treat skin infections caused by this type of fungus. These medicines are continued for several months until the infection is completely cured.

In severe cases of sporotrichosis, intravenous (IV) treatments such as Amphotericin B may be required. According to the CDC, Itraconazole may be needed up to a year after the IV treatments are completed. This ensures that the fungus is completely removed from the body. If the infection starts in the lungs, one may need surgery. The procedure entails removing infected lung tissue.

What Are The Complications Of Sporotrichosis?

The majority of sporotrichosis cases are not fatal. However, the bumps and sores could last years if the infection is untreated. Some situations can become permanent.

  • If left untreated, this infection may progress to disseminated sporotrichosis. The fungal infection spreads to other parts of the body in this condition. The bones and central nervous system are two examples. One may encounter:

    • Joint pain.

    • Excruciating headaches.

    • Confusion.

    • Seizures.

  • With a weakened immune system, especially if one has HIV, the patient is at risk for sporotrichosis.

  • Antifungal medications can harm the unborn child if one is pregnant. Before taking any antifungals, a doctor must be consulted.

How To Prevent Sporotrichosis?

Preventing mold spores from entering the skin is essential in avoiding sporotrichosis. Any scratches or breaks in the skin when working with roses, hay, or sphagnum moss must be covered. People should also wear heavy boots and gloves to protect themselves from puncture wounds.


Sporotrichosis is a rare fungal infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix. Most people who only have sporotrichosis in their skin or lymph nodes recover entirely. It may take months or years to treat a sporotrichosis infection, and scars may persist at the site of the original infection. Infections of the brain, lungs, joints or other body parts are much more challenging to treat. The disease can be prevented by wearing protective gloves and boots while working with roses and surrounding soil.

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Last reviewed at:
03 Mar 2023  -  4 min read




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