Can You Be Immune To Molluscum Contagiosum?
Immunity, especially humoral immunity plays a significant role in fighting molluscum contagiosum infection. Immunoglobulin G antibodies are responsible for fighting against the viral antigen and most adults have this group of antibodies in the blood circulation, thus these individuals are immune to molluscum contagiosum. So to answer the question, whether a person can be immune to molluscum contagiosum is “Yes, you can be immune to molluscum contagiosum”, if you have enough of IgG antibodies in your circulation. The individuals who are immune to molluscum contagiosum, when exposed to the virus are resistant to it and do not develop infection, while other who are not immune to the virus will develop the infection.
It has been noted that patients with impaired cellular immunity, which is commonly seen in AIDS or post-transplant immunosuppression patients develop severe molluscum contagiosum infection, which is often persistent and poses difficulty in treating. Some patients, in addition to molluscum contagiosum, also develop atopic dermatitis or eczema, which further adds discomfort to the persisting infection or may become secondarily infected by bacteria. Although, it has been noted that molluscum contagiosum is more severe in immunosuppressed patients, it can also affect immunocompetent individuals.
Molluscum contagiosum is an infection of the epidermal layer of the skin caused by a pox virus. It is quite contagious and spreads from one person to another easily.
Although, it can affect individuals of any age, it mostly affects children and younger adults. It is mostly commonly seen in white people than of any other race and more common in men than in women. In addition to younger children of 1-5 age groups, younger adults with multiple sexual partners along with immunocompromised patients (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer patients, transplant patients or long-term use of steroids) are at a greater risk of contracting the infection.
The molluscum contagiosum virus spreads via direct skin-to-skin contact from an infected person to a non-infected person and this can be seen mostly in athletes such as wrestlers, gymnasts, masseurs, close physical contact or during sexual contact. Children can get contract the infection through fomites such as contaminated towels, clothes, toys, sponges and kickboards. Autoinoculation can also occur when the infection is spread to other parts of the body by rubbing or scratching the infected mollusca.
The infection is usually evident in the form of skin papules after 2-7 weeks of transmission. Molluscum contagiosum lesions are usually painless, but may lead to discomfort and irritation that prompts the patient to scratch and itch the bumps, which increases the chances of autoinoculation and secondary bacterial infection if the papule is expressed. The papule may be single to multiple, firm, shiny, raised, central umbilication, dome shaped having a 2-5 mm diameter. The lesions can be found in a cluster of 1-20 papules. The waxy fluid expressed from the papule is highly contagious of virus. These lesions are most commonly found on the chest, arm, armpits, stomach, groin, genitals and on occasions and severe cases on face.
Is It Necessary To Treat Molluscum Contagiosum?
The severity of molluscum contagiosum infection differs from person to person and treatment also depends on the severity of the lesion. Although, the viral infection is benign and self-limiting, it may require treatment in cases where the lesions are severe, persistent, there are increased chances of transmission, a source of increased discomfort and if it challenges the esthetics of the patient. The lesions slowly disappear in a span of 6-18 months, but treatment should be initiated after diagnoses to limit the infection and prevent its transmission.
Molluscum contagiosum treatment aims at decreasing the discomfort and relieving symptoms of the patients. Some treatment modalities include salicylic acid, tretinoin cream, cantharidin, imiquimod, potassium hydroxide, lactic acid, glycolic acid, silver nitrate, systemic cimetidine, cryotherapy, curettage, antiviral therapy and immune response stimulation. Severe infection may require one or more treatment modalities to clear the infection.
- DermNet NZ. “Molluscum Contagiosum.” https://dermnetnz.org/topics/molluscum-contagiosum/
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Molluscum Contagiosum: Diagnosis and Treatment.” https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/molluscum-contagiosum-treatment
- Medscape. “Molluscum Contagiosum.” https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/910570-overview
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Molluscum Contagiosum: Treatment.” https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/molluscum-contagiosum/treatment.html
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