Medical experts have raised the alarm about a highly contagious rare fungal strain — after a sexually transmitted ringworm was reported for the first time in the United States.


What is trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII (TMVII)?

According to the CDC, Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII is a drug-resistant fungus that causes skin disease in animals and humans and is acquired through sexual contact.

A study published on Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology by doctors at NYU Langone Health in New York City revealed that the infection was detected in a man in his 30s who reportedly had sex with multiple men during a trip to England, Greece, and California.


Tests showed the man had the fungus and doctors prescribed him standard antifungal oral medications. The man took fluconazole for four weeks without improvement before moving on to terbinafine for six weeks and then itraconazole for eight weeks.

Doctors said the man did not contract other infections that could have worsened the problem. The sexually transmitted fungus is said to cause a rash on his penis, buttocks, and limbs.

In 2023, France reported 13 cases of the infection. It was also found to be common in men who have sex with men.


The infection which was described as “the latest in a group of severe skin infections” is difficult to treat and takes months to clear up even with treatment. The New York University’s (NYU) Langone Health revealed the new form of ringworm is “highly contagious”.

Experts warned that TMVII rashes differ from the classic circular expression of ringworm and may be confused for eczema, delaying proper treatment.

Avrom Caplan, the study’s lead author, emphasized the importance of doctors asking patients directly about rashes, especially in sexually active people.

“Healthcare providers should be aware that Trichophyton mentagrophytes type VII [TMVII] is the latest in a group of severe skin infections to have now reached the United States,” Caplan said.


“Since patients are often reluctant to discuss genital problems, physicians need to directly ask about rashes around the groin and buttocks, especially for those who are sexually active, have recently traveled abroad, and report itchy areas elsewhere on the body,” John Zampella, senior author, added.

Zampella said the infection “appears to respond to therapies such as terbinafine” despite the difficulty in treating it.

Terbinafine is an antifungal therapy that treats fungal infections.

Symptoms of TMVII include:

  • Intense itching
  • Inflamed circular patterns on the skin
  • Hair and nail issues
  • Causes athlete’s foot

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