Molluscum contagiosum virus is an obligate human pathogen that causes distinctive proliferative skin lesions. The virus occurs throughout the world, most commonly causing disease in childhood.

In hot countries where children are lightly dressed and in close contact with one another, spread within households is not uncommon. The age of peak incidence is reported as between 2 and 5 years. In young adults is attributable to sexual transmission with lesions more common in the genital area.

Causative organisms

Molluscum contagiosum virus is classified within the poxvirus family in a specific genus, the Molluscipox.

Mode of transmission

  • Skin-to-skin contact
  • Contact with contaminated objects, such as towels
  • Sexual contact with an affected partner
  • Scratching or rubbing the bumps, which spreads the virus to nearby skin

Predisposing factors

  1. Infection of children through sexual abuse is presumably possible. Molluscum contagiosum is seen quite commonly on the genital, perineal and surrounding skin of children, and abuse should not be regarded as likely unless there are other suspicious features.
  2. The use of swimming pools and shared bathing
  3. Immune compromise, such as HIV disease
  4. Haematological malignancy
  5. Sarcoidosis
  6. Lymphocytopaenia
  7. Hyper‐IgE syndrome
  8. Those receiving immunosuppressive therapy

Clinical features


The incubation period is variously estimated at 14 days to 6 months. The individual lesion is a shiny, pearly white, hemispherical, umbilicated papule which may show a central pore.

  • Lesions frequently spread and the number of lesions ultimately present is sometimes very large. After trauma, or spontaneously after several months, inflammatory changes result in suppuration, crusting and eventual destruction of the lesion.
  • May be itchy
  • Can be easily removed by scratching or rubbing, which can spread the virus to adjacent skin
  • Usually appear on the face, neck, armpits, arms and tops of the hands in children
  • May be seen on the genitals, lower abdomen and inner upper thighs in adults if the infection was sexually transmitted


  • Wash your hands. Keeping your hands clean can help prevent spreading the virus.
  • Avoid touching the bumps. Shaving over the infected areas also can spread the virus.
  • Don’t share personal items. This includes clothing, towels, hairbrushes or other personal items. Refrain from borrowing these items from others as well.
  • Avoid sexual contact. If you have molluscum contagiosum on or near your genitals, don’t have sex until the bumps are treated and have completely disappeared.
  • Cover the bumps. Cover the bumps with clothing when around others, to prevent direct contact. When swimming, cover the bumps with a watertight bandage.


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