The Chancroid


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a) Photo of a white swelling on a penis. B) micrograph of rod shaped pink cells.
(a) A soft chancre on the penis of a man with chancroid. (b) Chancroid is caused by the gram-negative bacterium Haemophilus ducreyi, seen here in a gram-stained culture of rabbit blood. (credit a, b: modification of work by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

OpenStax Microbiology

The sexually transmitted infection chancroid is caused by the gram-negative rod Haemophilus ducreyi. It is characterized by soft chancres on the genitals or other areas associated with sexual contact, such as the mouth and anus. Unlike the hard chancres associated with syphilis, soft chancres develop into painful, open sores that may bleed or produce fluid that is highly contagious. In addition to causing chancres, the bacteria can invade the lymph nodes, potentially leading to pus discharge through the skin from lymph nodes in the groin. Like other genital lesions, soft chancres are of particular concern because they compromise the protective barriers of the skin or mucous membranes, making individuals more susceptible to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Several virulence factors have been associated with H. ducreyi, including lipooligosaccharides, protective outer membrane proteins, antiphagocytic proteins, secretory proteins, and collagen-specific adhesin NcaA. The collagen-specific adhesion NcaA plays an important role in initial cellular attachment and colonization. Outer membrane proteins DsrA and DltA have been shown to provide protection from serum-mediated killing by antibodies and complement.

H. ducreyi is difficult to culture; thus, diagnosis is generally based on clinical observation of genital ulcers and tests that rule out other diseases with similar ulcers, such as syphilis and genital herpes. PCR tests for H. ducreyi have been developed in some laboratories, but as of 2015 none had been cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recommended treatments for chancroid include antibiotics such as azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin and ceftriaxone. Resistance to ciprofloxacin and erythromycin has been reported.


Parker, N., Schneegurt, M., Thi Tu, A.-H., Forster, B. M., & Lister, P. (n.d.). Microbiology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: