Sporotrichosis is an occupational disease of gardeners, outdoorsmen and nursery workers. Its causative agent is a fungus known as Sporothrix schenckii, described by Schenck in 1898 and widely present in plants and soil. This fungus thrives in a humid environment, i.e. mulches and sphagnum moss. It is usually introduced by a thorn-prick or exposure of priorly wounded skin to contaminated material.
A chronic process starts from one to five months later with a small purplish-red nodule at the site of inoculation, usually the hand, that later ulcerates through the skin and does not heal easily. Over the next several months it spreads upwards as lumps under the skin and skin sores moving towards the wrist, then the forearm and arm and into the armpit. The usual case is benign and slowly progressing, without affecting the general well-being, but continues its smouldering and protracted course if not treated. Once it is correctly diagnosed by biopsy and fungus cultures, it is easily and effectively treated by Potassium Iodide or some newer antimycotic agents of the Imidazole and Triazole groups.
Rarely, a more aggressive form of sporotrichosis may damage muscles, bones, joints and tendons of the affected limb, particularly if originally neglected.
Even more rarely, the fungus may be inhaled, causing a form of pneumonia, or ingested and causing systemic form involving many organs of the body. These forms are, fortunately, very rare, but they are more serious and difficult to treat.
Common sense would indicate to stay away from handling potentially contaminated materials such as sphagnum peat or moss, mulches or soils with bare hands when there is a wound present, also avoiding pricks or punctures through the skin from thorns or other sharp plant or soil material.
Please be advised that all complicated medical terminology has been eliminated to make it more understandable for people unfamiliar with medical terminology.
DATE: November 1986
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