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Sporotrichosis is a chronic infection caused by the microscopic fungus Sporothrix schenckii. The disease causes ulcers on the skin that are painless but do not heal, as well as nodules or knots in the lymph channels near the surface of the body. Infrequently, sporotrichosis affects the lungs, joints, or central nervous system and can cause serious illness.


The fungus that causes sporotrichosis is found in spagnum moss, soil, and rotting vegetation. Anyone can get sporotrichosis, but it is most common among nursery workers, farm laborers, and gardeners handling spagnum moss, roses, or barberry bushes. Cases have also been reported in workers whose jobs took them under houses into crawl spaces contaminated with the fungus. Children who played on baled hay have also gotten the disease. Sporotrichosis is sometimes called spagnum moss disease or alcoholic rose gardener's disease.

Causes and symptoms

The fungus causing sporotrichosis enters the body through scratches or cuts in the skin. Therefore, people who handle plants with sharp thorns or needles, like roses, barberry, or pines, are more likely to get sporotrichosis. Sporotrichosis is not passed directly from person to person, so it is not possible to catch sporotrichosis from another person who has it.
The first signs of sporotrichosis are painless pink, red, or purple bumps usually on the finger, hand, or arm where the fungus entered the body. These bumps may appear anywhere from one to 12 weeks after infection, but usually appear within three weeks. Unlike many other fungal infections sporotrichosis does not cause fever or any feelings of general ill health.
The reddish bumps eventually expand and fester, creating skin ulcers that do not heal. In addition, the infection often moves to nearby lymph nodes. Although most cases of sporotrichosis are limited to the skin and lymph channels, occasionally the joints, lungs, and central nervous system become infected. In rare cases, death may result.
People who have weakened immune systems, either from a disease such as acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or leukemia, or as the result of medications they take (corticosteroids, chemotherapy drugs), are more likely to get sporotrichosis and are more at risk for the disease to spread to the internal organs. Alcoholics and people with diabetes mellitus or a pre-existing lung disease are also more likely to become infected. Although sporotrichosis is painless, it is important for people with symptoms to see a doctor and receive treatment.


The preferred way to diagnose sporotrichosis is for a doctor to obtain a sample of fluid from a freshly opened sore and send it to a laboratory to be cultured. The procedure is fast and painless. It is possible to confirm the presence of advanced sporotrichosis through a blood test or a biopsy. Doctors may also take a blood sample to perform tests that rule out other fungal infections or diseases such as tuberculosis or bacterial osteomyelitis.
Dermatologists and doctors who work with AIDS patients are more likely to have experience in diagnosing sporotrichosis. In at least one state, New York, the laboratory test to confirm this disease is provided free through the state health department. In other cases, diagnosis should be covered by health insurance at the same level as other diagnostic laboratory tests.
Sporotrichosis is a chronic infection caused by the microscopic fungus Sporothrix schenckii. It produces ulcers on the skin that are painless but do not heal, and nodules or knots in the lymph channels near the surface of the body.
Sporotrichosis is a chronic infection caused by the microscopic fungus Sporothrix schenckii. It produces ulcers on the skin that are painless but do not heal, and nodules or knots in the lymph channels near the surface of the body.
(Illustration by Electronic Illustrators Group.)


When sporotrichosis is limited to the skin and lymph system, it is usually treated with a saturated solution of potassium iodine that the patient dilutes with water or juice and drinks several times a day. The iodine solution can only be prescribed by a physician. This treatment must be continued for many weeks. Skin ulcers should be treated like any open wound and covered with a clean bandage to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. The drug itraconazol (Sporanox), taken orally, is also available to treat sporotrichosis.
In serious cases of sporotrichosis, when the internal organs are infected, the preferred treatment is the drug amphotericin B. Amphotericin B is a strong anti-fungal drug with potentially severe toxic side effects. It is given intravenously, so hospitalization is required for treatment. The patient may also receive other drugs to minimize the side effects of the amphotericin B.

Alternative treatment

Alternative treatment for fungal infections focuses on maintaining general good health and eating a diet low in dairy products, sugars, including honey and fruit juice, and foods, such as beer, that contain yeast. This is complemented by a diet high in raw food. Supplements of and vitamins C, E, and A, B complex, and pantothenic acid may also be added to the diet, as may Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacteria, and garlic capsules.
Fungicidal herbs such as myrrh (Commiphora molmol), tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.), citrus seed extract, pau d'arco tea, and garlic (Allium sativum) may also be applied directly to the infected skin.


Most cases of sporotrichosis are confined to the skin and lymph system. With treatment, skin sores begin healing in one to two months, but complete recovery often takes six months or more. People who have AIDS are also more likely to have the fungus spread throughout the body, causing a life-threatening infection. In people whose bones and joints are infected or who have pulmonary lesions, surgery may be necessary.


Since an opening in the skin is necessary for the sporotrichosis fungus to enter the body, the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid accidental scrapes and cuts on the hands and arms by wearing gloves and long sleeves while gardening. Washing hands and arms well after working with roses, barberry, spagnum moss, and other potential sources of the fungus may also provide some protection.

Key terms

Acidophilus — The bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus, usually found in yogurt.
Bacterial osteomyelitis — An infection of the bone or bone marrow that is caused by a bacterium.
Bifidobacteria — A group of bacteria normally present in the intestine. Commercial supplements are available.
Corticosteroids — A group of hormones produced naturally by the adrenal gland or manufactured synthetically. They are often used to treat inflammation. Examples include cortisone and prednisone.
Lymph channels — The vessels that transport lymph throughout the body. Lymph is a clear fluid that contains cells important in forming antibodies that fight infection.



Dillon, Gary P., et. al. "Handyperson's Hazard: Crawl Space Sporotrichosis." The Journal of the American Medical Association 274 (December 6, 1995): 1673+.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a chronic fungal infection caused by Sporothrix schenckii, occurring in three forms. The cutaneous lymphatic form is characterized by a single pustule, papule, or nodule at the site of invasion, followed by lymphatic spread and the development of multiple, painless, subcutaneous granulomas, which tend to break down and form often painless ulcers or cold abscesses. The disseminated form is marked by multiple, painless, cutaneous or subcutaneous nodules, which may form cold abscesses, ulcers, or fistulas; this form may involve the muscles, joints, bones, eyes, gastrointestinal system, mucous membranes, and nervous system. The pulmonary form results from the inhalation of spores and causes acute disease or chronic granulomas similar to those seen in other mycoses.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


A chronic cutaneous mycosis spread by way of the lymphatics and caused by inoculation of Sporothrix schenckii, typically rare in tissue sections but rapidly growing in cultures. Extracutaneous sporotrichosis probably originates in the lung but disseminates to cause osteoarticular or other visceral disease. Chronic cavitary lung disease is another manifestation.
Synonym(s): Schenck disease
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


A chronic infectious disease of domestic mammals and humans, characterized by nodules or ulcers in the lymph nodes and skin and caused by a saprophytic or parasitic fungus of the genus Sporothrix, especially S. schenckii, commonly found in soil and wood.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Infectious disease A chronic skin infection by Sporothrix schenckii which spreads systemically via the lymphatics, especially in immunocompromised Pts Epidemiology Follows skin inoculation related to handling plants–rosebushes, briars, or mulch-rich soil, affecting farmers, horticulturists, etc Clinical Localized as a small painless red lump at the innoculation site which develops into an ulcer, often on the hands and forearms; as the lesion spreads into the lymphatics, it causes linear tracks, seen on the arms Systemic sporotrichosis SOB, osteomyelitis, arthritis, meningitis Treatment Supersaturated potassium iodide, itraconazole.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A chronic cutaneous mycosis spread by way of the lymphatics and caused by inoculation of Sporothrix schenckii, typically rare in tissue sections but rapidly growing in cultures. The disease may remain localized or may become generalized, involving bones, joints, lungs, and the central nervous system; lesions may be granulomatous or suppurative, ulcerative, or draining.
Synonym(s): Schenck disease.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


A persistent infection caused by the plant and moss fungus Sporothrix schenckii and contracted by way of a skin wound or by inhalation. There is a local ulcer followed by the appearance of nodules under the skin from masses of the fungus in the adjacent lymph channels. Lung cavities may occur. Treatment is with potassium iodide solution in milk by mouth and continued for a month.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


Benjamin Robinson, U.S. surgeon, 1873-1920.
Schenck disease - fungal infection with lymphatic spread to involve musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal system, and nervous system. Synonym(s): Beuermann disease; Beuermann-Gougerot disease; sporotrichosis
Medical Eponyms © Farlex 2012


Chronic cutaneous mycosis spread by way of lymphatics; caused by inoculation of Sporothrix schenckii.
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012