Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Molluscum
What is molluscum contagiosum?
A skin disease caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV)
usually causing one or more small lesions/bumps. MCV is generally a
benign infection and symptoms may self-resolve. MCV was once a
disease primarily of children, but it has evolved to become a
sexually transmitted disease in adults. It is believed to be a member
of the pox virus family.
How is it transmitted?
- Molluscum contagiosum may be sexually transmitted by
skin-to-skin contact (does not have to be mucous membranes) and/or
lesions. Transmission through sexual contact is the most common
form of transmission for adults.
- MCV may be transmitted from inanimate objects such as towels
and clothing that come in contact with the lesions. MCV
transmission has been associated with swimming pools and sharing
baths with an infected person.
- MCV also may be transmitted by autoinoculation, such as
touching a lesion and touching another part of the body.
What is the incubation period?
The incubation period averages 2 to 3 months and may range from 1
week to 6 months.
How long are you infectious?
This is not known for certain, but researchers assume that if the
virus is present it may be transmitted.
- Lesions are usually present on the thighs, buttocks, groin and
lower abdomen of adults, and may occasionally appear on the
external genital and anal region.
- Children typically develop lesions on the face, trunk, legs
- The lesions may begin as small bumps which can develop over a
period of several weeks into larger sores/bumps. The lesions can
be flesh colored, gray-white, yellow or pink. They can cause
itching or tenderness in the area, but in most cases the lesions
cause few problems. Lesions can last from 2 weeks to 4 years --
the average is 2 years.
- People with AIDS or others with compromised immune systems may
develop extensive outbreaks.
Diagnosis is usually made by the characteristic appearance of the
lesion. MCV may be diagnosed by collecting a specimen from the
lesion, placing it onto a slide and staining with a Gram stain which
shows changes in infected cells. Diagnosis may be made by collecting
a specimen from the lesion and viewing it under an electron
- Most symptoms are self-resolving, but generally lesions are
removed. Removal of lesions reduces autoinoculation and
transmission to others.
- Lesions can be removed surgically and/or treated with a
chemical agent such as podophyllin, cantharidin, phenol, silver
nitrate, trichloracetic acid or iodine.
- Cryotherapy is an alternative method of removal.
- Lesions may recur, but it is not clear whether this is due to
reinfection, exacerbation of subclinical infection, or
reactivation of latent infection.
What does it mean for my health?
In people with HIV infection, molluscum contagiosum is often a
Reduce your risk
- Because transmission through sexual contact is the most common
form of transmission for adults, preventing skin-to-skin contact
with an infected partner will be most effective in preventing
- Latex condoms or other moisture barriers for vaginal, oral,
and anal sex may help to prevent such contact. Limitations of such
barriers must be recognized as MCV does not require mucous
membrane contact to be passed.
- Using water-based spermicide for vaginal intercourse.
Spermicide is not recommended for oral sex, and has not been found
safe or effective for anal intercourse.
- Using condoms may protect the penis or vagina from infection,
but do not protect from contact with other areas such as the
scrotum or anal area.
- Mutual monogamy (sex with only one uninfected partner)
If you do get molluscum contagiosum, avoid touching the lesion and
then touching another part of the body without washing your hands to
prevent chance of autoinoculation.
Share your story
Do you have an experience related to molluscum contagiosum that
you are willing to share with others? Triumphs? Challenges? Please
send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: We cannot answer questions about molluscum contagiosum.
For any questions, please contact your health care provider or call
the National STD Hotline at .800.227.8922.
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