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Sporotrichosis

Last updated Dec. 25, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Sporotrichosis is a skin infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii. This fungus is found on rose thorns, hay, sphagnum moss, twigs and decaying vegetables.


What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Rose Gardener’s Disease
  • Rose-Handler’s Disease
  • Rose-Thorn Disease

What is Sporotrichosis? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Sporotrichosis is a skin infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii. This fungus is found on rose thorns, hay, sphagnum moss, twigs and decaying vegetables
  • Farmers, horticulturists, rose gardeners, and landscapers are more at risk of contracting this fungal infection
  • The most common symptom of Sporotrichosis is the appearance of a painless bump which is either pink or purple in color, mostly on the hands or forearms
  • Immunocompromised individuals are more at risk for disseminated Sporotrichosis, which is characterized by the involvement of lungs, bones, and brain
  • Antifungal medications, such as Iitraconazole, are the mainstay of treatment. The prognosis of Sporotrichosis is generally good with appropriate treatment
  • Disseminated Sporotrichosis may become fatal, especially in those with weak immune systems

Who gets Sporotrichosis? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Sporotrichosis can affect individuals of all age groups
  • In certain developed nations, the infection is more common in adults. While, in the tropical regions, Sporotrichosis is common among children and adolescents
  • Generally, males are more at risk of contracting the disease than females
  • All racial and ethnic groups are affected

What are the Risk Factors for Sporotrichosis? (Predisposing Factors)

Some groups of people bear a higher risk of contracting Sporotrichosis, and these include:

  • Farmers, horticulturists, rose gardeners, greenhouse workers, landscapers, and nursery plant workers
  • People with weak or poor immune systems as a result of cancer or HIV, and those taking immunosuppressive drugs
  • Children who play with hay, especially in the farming communities

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Sporotrichosis? (Etiology)

  • Sporotrichosis is a skin infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix schenckii
  • This fungus is found on rose thorns, hay, sphagnum moss, twigs and decaying vegetables
  • The fungus enters the skin through cuts or scrapes made by thorns, barbs, pine needles, or wires
  • Inhaling the fungus can lead to pulmonary infection, which can occur in certain rare cases
  • Infection can also occur by coming into contact with hay or moss infected with the fungus

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Sporotrichosis?

The following are some characteristic progression of the signs and symptoms associated with Sporotrichosis:

  • Appearance of a hard, firm, painless bump, which is either pink or purple in color; it is usually observed on the hands and forearms
  • The bump later develops into an ulcer discharging small amounts of pus
  • The infection (ulcer/sore) then spreads to the arms or legs, usually in the form of lines following the body lymph system (the lymphatic system is a significant part of the body’s immune system)
  • Through the lymphatic system, the infection can spread to different parts of the body

How is Sporotrichosis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Sporotrichosis may involve:

  • Physical examination of the sores and complete evaluation of one’s medical history
  • Culture: Tissue from the affected area is taken and is sent to the laboratory for fungal culture. In culture tests, an artificial environment is provided in the laboratory for the growth of the fungus
  • Tissue biopsy of the affected region: A tissue biopsy is performed and sent to a laboratory for a pathological examination. The pathologist examines the biopsy under a microscope. After putting together clinical findings, special studies on tissues (if needed) and with microscope findings, the pathologist arrives at a definitive diagnosis

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Sporotrichosis?

Complications secondary to Sporotrichosis usually occur in individuals with compromised immune systems and may include the following:

  • Infection of the bone
  • Arthritis - joint pain and infection
  • Pneumonia; lung infection
  • Meningitis: Inflammation/infection of the brain
  • Widespread disease affecting the entire body

Generally, Sporotrichosis does not cause any significant complications in individuals with a normal immune system.

How is Sporotrichosis Treated?

The treatment for Sporotrichosis may include the following steps:

  • Antifungal medicines, such as itraconazole, are generally given to treat Sporotrichosis 
  • Alternative antifungal medicines, such as terbinafine, are also commonly used
  • These are typically given for a period of 3-6 months
  • Widespread infections are treated either with amphotericin B or itraconazole
  • In widespread (systemic) disease, medicines are given for 12 months to completely treat the infection

How can Sporotrichosis be Prevented?

  • Currently, there is no vaccine available to prevent Sporotrichosis
  • Protective measures, such as wearing thick gloves while gardening, are recommended to avoid injury to the skin

What is the Prognosis of Sporotrichosis? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The prognosis of Sporotrichosis is generally good with appropriate treatment
  • Disseminated Sporotrichosis may become fatal for patients with weak immune systems. Hence, the development of disseminated infection renders the prognosis poor

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Sporotrichosis:

Sporotrichosis is also known as the Rose Gardener’s Disease.

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: April 26, 2016
Last updated: Dec. 25, 2018