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Thorn puncture infection: A Risk for Bacterial and Fungal Infection

A Risk for Bacterial and Fungal Infection

The beautiful rose flower tops a green stem that has sharp outgrowths. Many people refer to these as thorns.

If you’re a botanist, you might call these sharp outgrowths prickles, as they’re part of the outer layer of the plant’s stem. They don’t meet the strict definition of thorns, which have deeper roots in a plant’s stem.

No matter what you call them, rose thorns are sharp enough to penetrate your skin and have the ability to pass infectious material into the wound, such as:

  • dirt
  • fertilizer
  • bacteria
  • fungi
  • garden chemicals

These substances delivered into the skin by a thorn could result in a number of diseases, including:

  • sporotrichosis
  • plant-thorn synovitis
  • mycetoma

Read on to learn the symptoms to watch for and how to treat infections from rose thorns.

Also known as rose gardener’s disease, rose picker’s disease is the common name of sporotrichosis.

Sporotrichosis is a relatively rare infection caused by the fungus Sporothrix. It occurs when the fungus gets into the skin via a small cut, scrape, or puncture, such as from a rose thorn.

The most common form, cutaneous sporotrichosis, is often found on the hand and arm of someone who has been handling contaminated plant materials.

The symptoms of cutaneous sporotrichosis usually start to appear between 1 and 12 weeks after infection. The progression of symptoms is typically the following:

  1. A small and painless pink, red, or purple bump forms where the fungus entered the skin.
  2. The bump get bigger and starts to look like an open sore.
  3. More bumps or sores might appear in the near vicinity of the original bump.


It’s likely your doctor will prescribe a several-month course of antifungal medication, such as itraconazole.

If you have a severe form of sporotrichosis, you doctor might start your treatment with an intravenous dose of amphotericin B followed by an antifungal medication for at least a year.

Plant-thorn synovitis is a rare cause of arthritis from a plant thorn penetrating a joint. This penetration causes inflammation of the synovial membrane. That’s the connective tissue that lines a joint.

Although Blackthorn or date palm thorns cause most reported cases of plant-thorn synovitis, the thorns of numerous other plants can cause it too.

The knee is the most common joint affected, but it can also affect the hands, wrists, and ankles.


Currently, the only cure for plant-thorn synovitis is the removal of the thorn through surgery known as synovectomy. In this surgery, the connective tissue of the joint is removed.

Mycetoma is a disease caused by fungi and bacteria found in water and soil.

Mycetoma occurs when these specific fungi or bacteria repeatedly enter the skin through a puncture, scrape, or cut.

The fungal form of the disease is called eumycetoma. The bacterial form of the disease is called actinomycetoma.

Although rare in the United States, it often develops in people who live in rural areas of Latin America, Africa, and Asia that are near the equator.

The symptoms of both eumycetoma and actinomycetoma are similar. The disease starts with a firm, painless bump under the skin.

Over time the mass grows larger and develops oozing sores, making the affected limb unusable. It can spread from the initially infected area to other parts of the body.


Antibiotics can often effectively treat actinomycetoma.

Although eumycetoma is commonly treated with long-term antifungal medication, treatment may not cure the disease.

Surgery, including amputation, might be necessary to remove infected tissue.

Rose thorns can deliver bacteria and fungi into your skin and cause infection. To protect yourself while picking roses or gardening in general, wear protective clothing like gloves.

Sporotrichosis Basics

Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors

  • Sporotrichosis Overview
  • Causes of Sporotrichosis
  • Symptoms of Sporotrichosis
  • When to Seek Medical Care for Sporotrichosis
  • Exams and Tests for Sporotrichosis
  • Sporotrichosis Care at Home
  • Medical Treatment for Sporotrichosis
  • Follow-up Care for Sporotrichosis
  • Sporotrichosis Prevention
  • Outlook for Sporotrichosis
  • More

Sporotrichosis is an infection of the skin caused by a fungus, Sporothrix schenckii. This fungus is related more closely to the mold on stale bread or the yeast used to brew beer than to bacteria that usually cause infections. The mold is found on rose thorns, hay, sphagnum moss, twigs, and soil. The infection is more common among gardeners, nursery workers, and farmers who work with roses, moss, hay, and soil.

Once the mold spores move into the skin, the disease takes days or even months to develop.

Sporotrichosis usually begins when mold spores are forced under the skin by a rose thorn or sharp stick, although the infection can begin in apparently unbroken skin after contact with hay or moss carrying the mold.

More rarely, cats or armadillos can transmit the disease.

In rare cases, the fungus can be inhaled or ingested, causing infection in parts of the body other than the skin.

Sporotrichosis does not appear to be transmitted from person to person.

The first symptom of sporotrichosis is a firm bump (nodule) on the skin that can range in color from pink to nearly purple. The nodule is usually painless or only mildly tender. Over time, the nodule may develop an open sore (ulcer) that may drain clear fluid. Untreated, the nodule and the ulcer become chronic and may remain unchanged for years.

In about 60% of cases, the mold spreads along the lymph nodes. Over time, new nodules and ulcers spread in a line up the infected arm or leg. These can also last for years.

In very rare cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones, joints, lungs, and brain. This is more common among those with a weakened immune system. It can be difficult to treat and may be life threatening.

When to call the doctor

  • If you think you might have sporotrichosis, see a doctor about diagnosis and treatment.
  • If you are already being treated for sporotrichosis, contact a doctor if new sores develop or if the old ones appear to be growing.

When to go to the hospital

  • Sporotrichosis in the skin or lymph nodes should not be dangerous or life threatening.
  • Open ulcers can become infected with bacteria and may cause a condition known as cellulitis.
  • If a rapidly expanding area of redness, pain, and warmth around the original ulcers develops, you should go to your local emergency room.

Other infections can mimic sporotrichosis, so a doctor performs tests to confirm the diagnosis. The tests for sporotrichosis usually involve a biopsy of one of the nodules, followed by an exam of the biopsy sample under a microscope to identify the mold. Other possible infections might include:

  • Bacteria related to tuberculosis or leprosy
  • Cowpox
  • Herpes
  • Other fungi and bacteria
  • Noninfectious diseases such as lupus

No effective home care for sporotrichosis is known. Ulcers should be kept clean and covered until they are healed.

Treatment of sporotrichosis depends on the site infected.

  • Infections in the skin only: These sporotrichosis infections have traditionally been treated with a supersaturated potassium iodide solution. This medicine is given three times per day for three to six months until all the lesions have gone away. Skin infections may also be treated with itraconazole (Sporanox) for up to six months. Also, heat therapy (pocket warmer for one- two hours daily) creates higher tissue temperature to inhibit fungus growth, allowing the immune system to fight the fungus.
  • Sporotrichosis infection in the bones and joints: These infections are much more difficult to treat and rarely respond to potassium iodide. Itraconazole (Sporanox) is often used as an initial medication for several months or even up to a year. Amphotericin is also used, but this drug can only be given through an IV. Amphotericin has more side effects and may need to be administered for many months. Surgery is sometimes needed to remove infected bone.
  • Infection in the lungs: Lung infections are treated with amphotericin,itraconazole (Sporanox), and potassium iodide with varying amounts of success. Sometimes, the infected areas of the lung have to be removed.
  • Infection in the brain: Sporotrichosis meningitis is rare, so information on treatment is not readily available. Amphotericin plus 5-fluorocytosine is generally recommended, but itraconazole (Sporanox) might also be tried.

Multiple follow-up visits may be needed with a doctor to make sure sporotrichosis is disappearing. Once the disease goes away, further follow-up care is generally not needed.

The most important step in preventing sporotrichosis is preventing mold spores from entering the skin.

People who work with roses, hay, or sphagnum moss should cover any scratches or breaks in their skin. They should also wear heavy boots and gloves to prevent puncture wounds.

Most people who have sporotrichosis only in their skin or lymph nodes make a full recovery.

Treating a sporotrichosis infection may take several months or years, and scars may remain at the site of the original infection.

Infections involving the brain, lungs, joints, or other areas of the body are much more difficult to treat.

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Prickly problem


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Sometimes a person’s life is overshadowed by the appearance of acute stabbing pain in the foot when walking or in the palms when pressed. The cause of these unpleasant sensations may be the so-called spike.

What is it and where does it come from

The appearance of this “popular” name is due to the fact that pain when pressed is similar to a thorn prick. In fact, we are talking about one of the varieties of plantar warts.

The main features of spines are their localization, sharp stabbing pain even with light pressure, the ability to grow to very large sizes and even degenerate into a malignant neoplasm.

The favorite places for these formations are the soles, palms, fingers and toes. The cause of the spines are papillomaviruses, both already present in the human body, and transmitted from a sick person by contact and household, including through common household items.

In addition, there are predisposing factors for the appearance of this problem. These include, first of all, a decrease in immunity and situations that contribute to this (diseases, mental and physical injuries, stress, climate change, and others). Wearing tight, uncomfortable shoes can lead to microcracks that become entry gates for infection. And if there is increased sweating of the hands and feet, and even non-observance of personal hygiene, the likelihood of the appearance of spikes increases significantly. Fungal infections of the skin, diseases of small vessels can provoke the activity of the virus.

At the beginning of development, the spine looks like a corn or ordinary dry callus, slightly rising above the skin. Over time, the formation grows in width and grows into ever deeper layers of the skin. A crater-like depression appears in the center of the formation and black dots are visible. A simple test is usually performed to recognize a spine. Unlike dry corn, after steaming in hot water, the surface of the spike becomes terry, “hairy”. If you remove the top layer, then not the skin, but the filiform growths will be visible.

Do not self-medicate!
This education is not as harmless as many think. A big mistake is made by those who try to cope with the problem on their own.

Firstly, this will not lead to a positive result due to the deep germination of the wart. Even if you cut off the superficial part of the formation, its base will remain in the deep layers of the skin and after a while will give rise to a new spine or even a whole colony of new warts.

Secondly, as a result of your manipulations, inflammatory processes may develop and a secondary infection may join.

In addition, constant mechanical impact on the formation during movement, its damage when trying to remove it yourself can lead to malignant degeneration of the plantar wart.

Therefore, if such a formation is found on the hands or soles, it is necessary to contact a dermatologist who will examine the neoplasm, identify the causes, and prescribe the necessary treatment.

The most effective treatments for spinal cords currently include radical removal with a laser or liquid nitrogen. The use of laser therapy has more advantages. The procedure is painless, allows you to remove the formation in one session, does not leave marks on the skin, provides the necessary depth of penetration to completely remove the spine and prevent recurrence of the disease.

The use of liquid nitrogen is more traumatic and often requires repeated procedures. Sometimes they resort to surgical removal of the plantar wart with a scalpel. Chemical methods using acids and folk remedies are no longer used due to their inefficiency and the possibility of complications. In some cases, consultation with an immunologist may be required. In any case, the decision on the choice of treatment tactics is made by the doctor.

Any treatment may have contraindications. Do not self-medicate, contact specialists.

The following can be recommended as measures to prevent this disease:

– pay more attention to the skin of your hands and feet, watch the condition of your shoes;

– follow simple hygiene rules, keep hands and feet clean;

– fight excessive sweating of the legs, now there are a lot of means and ways for this;

– always treat the smallest wounds on the skin of the hands and feet with disinfectant solutions;

– do not walk barefoot in public places (pools, baths, etc. ).

Larisa Sarycheva,
Regional Center for Medical Prevention

Photo: http://hochu.ua/

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“The Devil’s Rope”: How Barbed Wire Changed America

  • Tim Harford
  • BBC World Service

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As the story goes, in late 1876, a young man named John Warne Gates built a barbed-wire cattle corral in downtown San Antonio, Texas.

He said he collected the largest and most unruly longhorns in all of Texas inside the pen.

Many, however, believe that this breed is very obedient and pliable, and some even doubt that the whole story is true.

Be that as it may, John Gates went down in history as “Gates the million dollar debater”. He offered to onlookers who had gathered to look at his pen, to bet on whether or not these large animals could break through the seemingly fragile fence. They couldn’t.

Even when his bosom friend – a Mexican cowboy – yelled at the cattle, pouring Spanish curses on it and waving a red-hot iron in each hand, the drag resisted.

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Gates introduced the public to a radically new type of fence, and soon orders began to pour in. He is considered the first seller of barbed wire, while the patent for its invention belongs to the American farmer and later businessman Joseph Glidden from Illinois.

Photo copyright, Alamy

Photo caption,

John Gates was the first to understand the prospects for barbed wire in the Wild West and made a good fortune selling it

Breaking point

An advertisement of the time called the new invention “the greatest discovery of the century. ” Gates came up with a more poetic description of it: “lighter than air, stronger than whiskey, cheaper than dust.”

Today we simply call it barbed wire.

To call the wire the greatest discovery of the century was, of course, a great exaggeration, even with the allowance for the fact that at that time the advertisers did not yet suspect that Alexander Graham Bell was about to receive a patent for the invention of the telephone.

However, with all due respect to the telephone, the invention of which greatly improved our lives, barbed wire brought a huge change in the life of the American Wild West – and much faster than the telephone.

Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire design was not the first, but it was the best. It remains so to this day.

The spikes were wound around one wire throughout its length, and the other wire was wrapped around the first to lock the spikes in place.

American farmers literally snatched up a new product, and there is an explanation for this.

A few years earlier, in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the so-called Homestead Act.

Not on maps

Photo by Alamy

Photo caption

Joseph Glidden’s barbed wire design is still in use today. American Farmer Turned Business Owner Through His Invention

Under this federal law, any honest citizen, including women and freed slaves, could claim 0.6 square miles of unoccupied land in the western United States.

To do this, it was only necessary to build a house and cultivate the land for five years.

The task looked very simple.

But the prairie was a vast, uncharted area, densely overgrown with tall grass and more suitable for nomads than for settled inhabitants.

For a long time only Indian tribes lived here. But after the Europeans came to the continent and moved in a westerly direction, cowboys began to graze their herds on these endless plains.

Photo copyright, Alamy

Photo caption,

Barbed wire fences caused settlers to clash with Indians

The first settlers on these lands needed reliable fences, primarily from free-roaming cowboy cattle trampling crops.

There were few trees in this area, often called the American wilderness. It was not possible to build many kilometers of fences from it.

At first, farmers tried to grow hedges from thorny bushes, but they grew slowly and it was impossible to move them if necessary. Barriers made of ordinary wire also did not work: cattle demolished them without much effort.

Barbed wire changed what the Homestead Act could not change.

Before its appearance, the steppes were just an endless space, more like an uninhabited ocean than a potential arable land.

Private land ownership was not widespread here, because it did not seem promising.

“Devil’s Rope”

Photo credit: Chris Dorney / Alamy Stock Photo

Image caption

The Homestead Act of 1862 stipulated who could take possession of land in the Western Territories and under what conditions

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Barbed wire has also been the subject of fierce controversy.

Farmers who settled in the western United States on the basis of the Homestead Act tried to isolate their private property – property that until recently belonged to the Indians. Therefore, it is not surprising that the indigenous tribes called barbed wire the “devil’s rope”.

The cowboys of the old school continued to live on the principle that the cattle were free to roam where they pleased – such was the rule of open pastures. They hated barbed wire: animals got hurt by it and suffered from infections.

During the hurricane season, cattle usually moved south, but the barbed wire fences that appeared often became an obstacle in the way of the herd, and the animals died by the thousands.

Whereas barbed wire originally marked the legal boundaries of private property, over time some cowboys began to use it to seize public pastures.

As the prairie was covered with barbed wire fences, more and more skirmishes broke out between the settlers.

Entire gangs in masks cut down the fences and left terrifying warnings to the owners of the land not to rebuild them again. Shootings became more frequent, there were dead.

In the end, the authorities had to intervene. The so-called “fence wars” stopped, but the barbed wire remained.

“I feel sick,” said one of the ranchers in 1883, “when I think that in those places where young mustangs should run and ripen for the sale of four-year-old steers, onions and Irish potatoes grow.”

While the cowboys were simply angry, the indigenous tribes, the Indians, suffered much more.

Photo copyright, Alamy

Photo caption,

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, 15,000 families claimed land in the Wild West under the Homestead Act.

The 17th-century English philosopher John Locke, who had a great influence on the founding fathers of the United States, wondered how one could legally take possession of land. Once upon a time, no one could own anything.

Locke argued that we can only own the fruits of our labors. And if we mix our labor with the land – for example, by cultivating it – then it turns out that we have combined what belongs to us by right with what belongs to no one. By cultivating the land, we begin to own it.

Nonsense, said Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an 18th-century French philosopher who opposed any isolation.

In his treatise On the Origin and Foundations of Inequality between Men, Rousseau writes bitterly: “The first one who, having fenced off a piece of land, thought of calling it his own and found such simpletons who believed him, was the true founder of civil society.”

The Importance of Private Property

Rousseau’s definition was by no means a compliment.

However, modern economies are based precisely on the fact that most things, including land and real estate, have an owner. Most often this is an individual or a corporation.

The ability to own real estate also gives a person an incentive to invest money to improve what they own, whether it be a plot of land in the American Midwest, or an apartment in Calcutta, India, or intellectual property, such as the rights to Mickey Mouse.

Photo copyright, Hulton Archive

Photo caption,

The writings of the English philosopher John Locke had a great influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States

This is a strong argument that was used cynically and ruthlessly by those who insisted that the native Americans, Indian tribes, they did not have the right to their own territory, because they did not develop it in the way that it seemed to the right Europeans.

The story of how barbed wire changed the West is also about how the right to property, in particular land and real estate, has changed the whole world.