Donovanosis is an infection caused by the bacterium Klebsiella granulomatis. Based on information available, the disease seems to spread primarily through sexual contact, Russo said.
"There's some rare reports [of] perhaps transmission independent of sexual activity, but that they're not well validated," he added. "So we really think of [it] as a sexually transmitted disease."
An infected person may first notice papules—small raised bumps—appearing in the genital area, usually sometime between a few days and a month after sexual contact. Occasionally, symptoms may show as late as a year after infection.
Over time, donovanosis can produce "fairly large" beefy-red ulcerative lesions, Russo said. The ulcers are painless but bleed readily to the touch, according to a 2002 paper by researcher Nigel O'Farrell in the British Medical Journal.
Whether the disease is truly flesh-eating depends on how loosely you define the term. Lesions can eventually cause permanent scarring and tissue damage, as well as infection and other complications if left untreated, though donovanosis progresses slowly relative to some other ulcerative diseases, Russo noted.
Luckily, donovanosis is both treatable and curable, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics administered for about three weeks or until the ulcers are gone, along with follow-up appointments to see if the disease reappears.