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Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum Contagiosum is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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Molluscum contagiosum is a common, benign, viral (poxvirus) skin infection, characterized by small (2 to 5 mm), waxy white or flesh-colored, dome-shaped papules often with central umbilication. Lesions contain a cheesy grayish white material. Molluscum contagiosum is highly contagious and spreads by autoinoculation, skin-to-skin contact, sexual contact, and shared clothing/towels. Molluscum contagiosum is a self-limited infection in immunocompetent patients but can be difficult to treat and disfiguring in immunocompromised patients.


  • 1% in the United States, occurring mainly in children 2 to 15 years and sexually active young adults
  • 5–18% HIV population

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • DNA virus; Poxviridae family
  • Four genetic virus types, clinically indistinguishable
  • Virions invade and replicate in cytoplasm of epithelial cells causing abnormal cell proliferation.
  • Genome encodes proteins to evade host immune system.
  • Incubation period: 2 to 6 weeks
  • Time to resolution: 6 to 24 months
  • Not associated with malignancy
  • No cross-hybridization or reactivation by other poxviruses

Risk Factors

  • Skin-to-skin contact with infected person
  • Contact sports
  • Swimming
  • Eczema, atopic dermatitis
  • Sexual activity with infected partner
  • Immunocompromised: HIV, chemotherapy, corticosteroid therapy, transplant patients

General Prevention

  • Avoid skin-to-skin contact with host (e.g., contact sports, sexual activity).
  • Avoid sharing clothing and towels.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Immunosuppression medications: corticosteroids, biologics, chemotherapy, etc.

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Molluscum Contagiosum." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116387/all/Molluscum_Contagiosum.
Molluscum Contagiosum. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116387/all/Molluscum_Contagiosum. Accessed April 26, 2019.
Molluscum Contagiosum. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116387/all/Molluscum_Contagiosum
Molluscum Contagiosum [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 26]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116387/all/Molluscum_Contagiosum.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Molluscum Contagiosum ID - 116387 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116387/all/Molluscum_Contagiosum PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -