This is a viral infection of the skin caused by a poxvirus. It results in lesions that are smooth, firm and spherical ranging in size from 2-5mm. The lesions may be yellow, white or flesh colored. They may show an indentation at the top of the lesion.

Poxvirus of molluscum contagiosum/CDC
Poxvirus of molluscum contagiosum/CDC

This infection is most frequently seen in children where the lesions appear on the face, trunk and extremities. In adults it is usually associated with being a sexually transmitted infection with lesions seen on the lower abdomen, genitalia or inner thighs.

Immunocompromised people tend to develop hundreds of disseminated lesions over the body and face. This may be explained by scratching of the lesions (autoinoculation).

Molluscum contagiosum is usually spread through direct contact, sexual or non-sexual. Non-sexual transmission is often through inanimate objects such as toys, doorknobs and faucet handles. Scratching and shaving over lesions can cause it to spread through autoinoculation. It is found worldwide.

In immunocompetent people the viral infection will usually resolve itself within two years at the high end.

In adults, removal of lesions is frequently recommended to shorten the length of the disease. This can be done by scraping, freezing or laser therapy. There is no medicinal treatment that satisfactorily treats the infection.

Diagnosis can usually be made clinically. Confirmation can be made by examining the lesion microscopically for classic “molluscum” or “Henderson-Paterson bodies”.

Prevention of molluscum contagiosum is through avoiding skin contact, particularly sexual contact with an infected person. Also not sharing personal items like bath towels and sponges will help prevent infection. To avoid spreading lesions and autoinoculation, do not scratch or shave over lesions.