Rare Case of Sexually Transmitted Ringworm Found in the US

Medical experts are sounding the alarm about a highly contagious and rare fungal strain, as the U.S. reports its first case of sexually transmitted ringworm.

“Healthcare providers need to be vigilant—Trichophyton mentagrophytes Type VII has arrived in the United States, adding to the roster of severe skin infections,” stated Dr. Avrom Caplan, a dermatologist at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, in a university press release.

According to the Centers for Disease ControlTrichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is spread through sexual contact.

According to a new report released in JAMA Dermatology, the first case involves a man in his 30s from New York City who developed ringworm (tinea) on his genitals, buttocks, and limbs. This occurred after he reported having sexual encounters with men during trips to California, England, and Greece.

Upon returning home, the man began experiencing an itchy red rash spreading across his groin, genitals, and buttocks. According to the case study, tests soon confirmed he had contracted the rare fungal strain.

What is Trichophyton mentagrophytes Type VII?

Trichophyton mentagrophytes: Sexually Transmitted Ringworm

Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is a drug-resistant fungus causing skin disease in both animals and humans, primarily transmitted through sexual contact, according to the CDC. This rare strain has been detected worldwide, with cases reported in men who have sex with men and travelers who developed genital ringworm after visiting Southeast Asia.

In the report, Dr. Caplan noted that the rash may resemble an eczema flare-up more than a typical ringworm infection, usually forming a circular pattern on the skin. Although the disease is not fatal, it can lead to permanent scarring.

Dr. Caplan revealed that he identified the first two cases of a different ringworm infection caused by Trichophyton indoline last year. Although not sexually transmitted, these infections are both contagious and drug-resistant.

Since then, Caplan’s team at NYU Langone Health has identified 11 cases of Trichophyton indoline ringworm in New York City residents.

Report: An Emerging Public Threat

According to a report published in May in the same journal, the 11 cases of ringworm in New York linked to Trichophyton indotinea have been associated with travel to Asia. Medical experts have noted that these cases resist standard treatments, including common antifungal medications.

The report highlights the emergence of this fungus as a significant public health concern due to its ability to cause ringworm infections that may not respond to standard therapies like terbinafine, an oral antifungal medication. Terbinafine, as described by the Mayo Clinic, is prescribed to treat a range of fungal infections, including those affecting the scalp, body, fingernails, toenails, jock itch, and athlete’s foot.

Symptoms of Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII (TMVII) may include:

  • Severe itching
  • Circular inflammation on the skin
  • Hair and nail abnormalities
  • This can lead to an athlete’s foot

The New York man with Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII underwent oral antifungal therapy. It took 4½ months for the infection to completely resolve, with no improvement noted during the initial four weeks of treatment.

Jeremy Gold, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC who was not associated with the study, highlighted to the news channel that this new case is significant. It underscores the importance of healthcare providers contemplating fungi as a potential origin of sexually transmitted diseases.

“Often, patients end up with rounds of antibacterial drugs that won’t beat the fungus,” he explained. “Clinicians need to remember this for tailored care.” He wasn’t part of the new case report.

Good news: Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is currently treatable.


  1. New sexually transmitted fungal infection – ringworm – found in NYC marks 1st case in US [Internet]. Accessed on June 14, 2024. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2024/06/06/rare-sexually-transmitted-ringworm-fungus-new-york/73995222007/
  2. First case of rare, sexually transmitted form of ringworm reported in US [Internet]. Accessed on June 14, 2024. Available at: https://www.pennlive.com/nation-world/2024/06/first-case-of-rare-sexually-transmitted-form-of-ringworm-reported-in-us.html

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