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Molloscum is a viral skin infection caused by the virus molluscum contagiosum. It spread by close physical contact, including sexual contact. It can also be passed on through objects like towels or flannels.

Symptoms of molluscum:

The only symptom of the virus are raised, painless pink or red spots which may be itchy. They may have a small white or yellow head and look pearly. They tend to be 2-5mm wide.

The substance inside the head of the spots is very contagious, so never squeeze them as you could spread the infection to other areas of your body.

If you have caught molluscum sexually, the spots are likely to be around the groin, genital area, lower abdomen, buttocks and upper thighs.

The spots will usually clear up in around 6 to 18 months.

How it's passed on

Molluscum is spread through close physical contact or by sharing something like a towel which is contaminated.

It is particularly common in people who have a weakened immune system, including people living with HIV with a very low CD4 count.

Molluscum can spread through sexual contact - this means any type of sexual activity including sexual intercourse.

Use a condom during vaginal or anal sex. However molluscum can be passed on despite condom use because it is transferred by close skin contact.

If someone has molluscum they are considered to be contagious until the last spot has completely healed up.

Tests and treatment

A nurse or doctor can diagnose molluscum by looking at the spots - although if they are uncertain of the diagnosis they can take a biopsy.

The infection usually clears up without treatment in 6 to 18 months. However, if you have HIV with a very low CD4 count, it may take longer to clear up.

In some cases a doctor or nurse may prescribe treatment to try to clear up molluscum faster, especially if the spots are affecting your quality of life or if you have HIV. Some treatments can have side effects, however.

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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 15/9/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 15/9/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health Promotion

More information:

Molluscum contagiosum, NHS Choices 2014

British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, UK National Guideline for the Management of Genital Molluscum in Adults 2014, Clinical Effectiveness Group, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, July 2014

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Molluscum contagiosum, 11/5/15

NAM, Aidsmap Molluscum contagiosum

NAM, Aidsmap Molluscum contagiosum - Symptoms and diagnosis


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The easiest and most effective precaution to take against most STIs is using a condom.