Section : History & Terminology

Donovanosis – the other name for Granuloma Inguinale

  • In the ancient classification (now obsolete), donovanosis was listed as the 5th venereal disease.
  • In dermatology textbooks, it is known as Granuloma Inguinale ou venereal granuloma.
  • As this infection is quite rare in Western Europe and that names are quite similar, medical students tend to find it difficult to make the difference with  lymphogranuloma venereum (Nicolas-Favre disease), which is also quite rare.
  • For this reason, it is easier to remember the term Donovanosis.
  • The name refers to Dr Charles Donovan (1863-1951). He was Irish but born in Calcutta (Kolkata), and worked as a physician in India.
  • He discovered the responsible organism in 1905 in the form of rod-shaped or oval inclusions in histiocytes (known as Donovan bodies) from beefy-red genital ulcerations [Klebsiella granulomatis, a Gram negative bacteria]
  • Donovan also described 2 years earlier with Dr William Leischman, the protozoa of Kala-azar which is a type of Leishmaniasis
  • Separately and roughly at the name time the cause of syphilis (treponema pallidum) was found by Drs Schaudinn and Hoffmann (1905)


Dr Christophe Hsu – dermatologist. Geneva, Switzerland

Source of information: Harms M. Dermatologica Helvetica (The Swiss Journal of Dermatology and Venereology)