Molluscum Contagiosum



What is molluscum contagiosum?


Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection of the skin that causes clusters of painless, flesh coloured or pearly white, small bumps that have an indent on top. The lesions can be itchy and the skin around the lesions can appear red and irritated, especially if the individual has a history of eczema. They can occur anywhere on the body but are rarely found on the palms of hands or soles of feet.

It is commonly seen in three groups:

  • School-aged children
  • Sexually active adolescents or young adults (genital molluscum contagiosum)
  • Children or adults who are immunocompromised


What causes molluscum contagiosum and how does it spread?


The molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV) is the virus known to cause this disease and is part of the poxvirus family. It can be spread via various methods such as:

  • Close contact with infected persons and/or their contaminated clothing, towels etc.
  • Spread from one part of the body to another usually via the hand (i.e. scratching)
  • Sexually transmitted if there are genital lesions

Although the period of infectiousness is unknown, there is a low risk of spreading (<10%) and there is only a moderate risk if you live in the same household as an infected individual.


To reduce the risk of contracting molluscum contagiosum, the following precautions are advised:

  • Avoid close contact with infected persons
  • Do not share clothes/towels with infected individuals
  • Avoid sexual contact with infected individuals


When will symptoms appear?


There is limited evidence around how long it takes for symptoms to appear once an individual is infected. Lesion growth occurs over several weeks, whilst the patient is otherwise well, and will resolve on their own over a few months. However, the infection can continue as new lesions appear at other sites on the body due to scratching. The lesions overall tend to resolve without treatment within 6-12 months. Immuno-supressed individuals or those with genital lesions may require treatment.  


Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about you or your child having molluscum contagiosum.