Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This week I came back from the doctor with a weird diagnosis ( Sporotrichosis infection). It is not common but since there are a lot of rose and gardening people out there, I thought it my duty to warn you. Are you aware that a rose bush can kill you?? I sure wasn't. Before you all start fighting over my things, I don't plan to go any where ---yet.

Sporotrichosis is an infection of the skin caused by a fungus, Sporothrix schenckii. This infection-causing 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. Therefore, the infection is more common among gardeners who work with roses, moss, hay, and soil.

Several weeks ago, for some reason I did not wear my elbow high rose gloves which I am usually religious about and my rose bush attacked me. It stuck me at the base of my index finger at the nail bed. It was in quite deep. I pulled the thorn out and suspected I didn't get it all. Within a day I had a blister like swelling at the site. That lasted about a week and then the blister broke and I thought that was it.
As the nail grew, it also got gruesome. My new nail was not there, just pink knarly skin and eventually I lost the old nail. After some time, the new nail growing in seemed OK but I had some pain and swelling at the site.

This is picture of my finger now. It has looked much, much worse. It appears I am getting ready to lose the second nail.

For the next month, I would have good days and bad days. Never screaming pain but annoying hangnail type pain. It would appear to be getting better, then relapse. I was thinking it was a simple nail fungus but finally I gave up the home remedies and saw the doctor. She had to do some research also for she had never come across it.

Sophorix is a yeasty fungus that can wreak havoc on the human body. An infected gardener can experience redness, swelling and open weeping ulcerations along the puncture site. The fungus then travels quickly to the lymphatic system where it spreads though out the body. It can infect the eyes causing keratitis, migrate to the bones and joints, and damage the central nervous system and lungs.

A deeply embedded thorn has been found to migrate into the bones or muscles, away from the original site. There it will bury itself, causing pain, fever and other signs of infection. Because this is not a commonly known disease, it often gets misdiagnosed.

Diagnosing sophorix is not easy. There is a skin test, similar to the TB test, which is fairly effective in pinpointing rose thorn disease. But it mainly is effective at identifying active lung infection and often misses the skin infection entirely. For deeply embedded thorns traditional X-rays, MRI's and CAT scans don't normally pick up on the thorn. However, ultrasound has been found to demonstrate the existence of an embedded thorn.

This can be a fatal condition but most often it is just a LOOOOOOG treatment and recovery. The drug they give you has really bad side effects. Right now we are going conservative with antibodies but if that doesn't work, which it won't on rose thorn disease, then ultrasound to find the piece I didn't get and removal are preferable to the long drug treatment ( 3 to 6 months).

I know I have a lot of gardener readers and like me, you may have worked with those beauties for years with no problems. This is a very serious disease and as previously stated, it can move to the bones and joints, the lungs and the brain. It can be fatal.

Please, please, please be sure to always wear gloves around the rose bushes or even just working in the garden.
It just takes one slip up.

Anyone else been through this ???


  1. Yes, about 20 years ago, I began to lose my nails, they lifted up from the base leaving the underside dry and unattached to the finger, so one knock and the nail flew off. Soon I had no nails left and new ones emerging were all ridged . Eventually it was diagnosed as some sort of fungus, and I was given tablets to rid the body of the fungal infection and cream to get into the nails beds. I never knew where I got it from. I can't remember the name given it by the doctors, but it was long and weird so could well have been this one.
    I don't have it every occurring again, so I guess it is cured. So be cheered!
    Love Granny

  2. Ugh---No--haven't been through this and neither has George, even though he is constantly 'messing' with our roses. He does wear gloves all of the time though..

    Thanks for sharing... We will be more careful.

  3. Thanks Heavens, no, I've not had that. I surely could have, seeing as I prune my roses without gloves. Never again. I sure hope they find your errant thorn soon!

  4. Oh no Oh no !!!!!! :-(((
    Hugs Patti. The bleeding nail looks pretty painful.

    I was unaware roses could kill!! Thanks for sharing. But you take care. We want you fighting fit soon.

  5. No, but thanks for sharing. I have very few roses, but certainly will be careful around them. I lost a big toenail once, after a rather large, heavy freezer package fell on my bare foot. Takes 9 months to grow back entirely.

    I'm surprised you weren't given one of those gold-plated anti-fungal meds.

    Take care:I may never look at roses quite them same.

  6. Thank you, I was not aware of this. I always wear gloves when I'm gardening but I will be extra careful for sure.
    Sunny :)

  7. All this while you have been suffering in silence.
    Step away from the rose bush!
    I am glad you have someone who knows a bit more than your home remedies

  8. I've gardened for ever, and had never heard of this before. Thank you for the warning. Will try to remember to wear my gloves from now on. Hope your better soon.

  9. Granny,
    Sounds similar. They have meds they want to give me but they have such bad side effects, we are going conservative for a while. So far, only one finger is involved. Good to know that it will eventually go away. Thanks.

    I thought of you and George when I got this. I too was very careful, Just that one time was I careless.
    Hope this will spare you both a similar fate.

    Oh good, a convert. I am glad you will now be careful. Just the wrong puncture and like me if a piece stays in, it is big time trouble. Thank you.

    Thank you. This is all new to me also. I just hope maybe I can spare some one else the grief. Who would think a beatiful rose could be such a problem.

    Frankly I am not excited about going the anti-fungal route. The side effects can be worse than the disease. Congestive heart failure, damaged liver, etc and you have to be treated from 3 to 6 months with the meds. Yikes. I am hoping getting the piece out will be enough. Probably not but we will see.

    This was new to me also. I almost always wore gloves. Now that will be-- I will "always" wear gloves. ABC Always be careful.

    You would think at my age I would know that most home remedies don't work. Still, I just hated to go to the doctor for a sore "fingie". Think I have finally learned a lesson.

    Well I am 70 and this is new to me. I guess it is like ticks. You can pull a hundred off before that one carrying Lymes diseases sinks its grabbers into you.
    I am just thrilled that everyone seems to be taking this to heart and will be more careful. Whole purpose of this post. Thank you.

  10. Patti! Oh wow what a terrible thing to have happen. I remember reading years ago that people can actually contract tetanus from rose thorns. So that always made me very careful around them. But this fungal disease is something I've never heard of, but will surely avoid at all costs. I am so sorry you are having to endure such a thing. Keep us posted on your progress, and thank you so much for posting something so important and informative. Take care.

  11. Oh my god, who would of thought!!!

    Nasty looking finger you have there Patti.

    I got really sick once with a thing called Q Fever and you get it through animals especially sheep and goats (mine came from a dead goat I had to dispose of) but until i got it I had never heard of it.

  12. robin,
    Thanks robin. As soon as I knew what I had and did a little research, I had to tell my readers. Many are gardeners and while the chances are slim they will get it also, simple caution can prevent it and months of treatment.
    I had also heard of the tetanus connection.

    I know I never would have though it.
    Had to look up Q fever. That is a really nasty disease also. Glad you are all better.
    I use to have goats and never heard of it. Somehow we go blissfully ignorant through life.

  13. Thanks for your lovely comment.
    Oh my God! Its unbelievable. I have never heard of this type of fungus. I felt very bad to see the terrible condition of your finger. I have rose plant in my house and I often clean without gloves but never ever imagined that the rose thorns can be so dangerous. I would like to convey my thanks to you for sharing this information. I am praying to God for your speedy recovery. Be careful from the next time and take care of your finger.

  14. Wow, that looks nasty. And you mean you've been suffering with that finger and just finally went to the doctor. Woman it's a wonder it didn't do more harm than what it has done. I would have been to the doctor the first week. Do you have to soak it? I know when this old family doctor removed a wart from my middle finger it got infected and I had to soak it several times a day in Epsom salt water.

    A little girl I once baby sit for, came back one Monday morning and her little finger looked bad. I asked her Mother what happened, she said it got pinched in a door way when they were out feeding their horses. It wouldn't heal, a surgeon had to open that little finger clear to the bone and scrap the bone, and then I had to make warm water, using Dial soap, we had to soak that little finger every so many hours. She was so tiny and never once complained about it.

    Now you make sure you keep an eye on that finger and get back to the doctor for more help if needed.

  15. I never thought I would be so grateful for my brown thumb.

  16. Babli
    Thank you so much. I sure will try to keep away from thorns in the future. I do hope I helped someone else to be careful and not have to go through this.

    Yea, I do get dummy points for waiting so long. It would keep getting better and I would think I was OK, then it would get worse again.Been a rollercoaster.
    Think I will try soaking. It sure can't hurt. Pretty sure they will have to open it up and scrape the bone like that brave little girl. Thanks.

    Next time anyone gives you grief about your "brown thumb" you can quote my post to shut them up. You're welcome:)))

  17. Thank you Patti for the information, I never dreamed rose thorns could be deadly, will have to pass this on. I wonder now about blackberry thorns, they are the ones that get me! I will have to research, can't imagine picking blackberries with gloves on though!

  18. Wow. I never heard of this disease before. I only have one rose and it doesn't have thorns.

  19. I never heard of this and I rarely put on gloves when gardening. You have opened my eyes to the dangers, so I will be wearing gloves in the future.
    So sorry you had to suffer through this. Hope your nail will be well soon.

  20. Wow Patti, hope the treatment goes well and works quickly. I am wondering if I might have this now, thanks for the info - as I have had some strange symptoms off and on and as you may know had a ton of roses at my last place. also wondering if a sulfa drug would be better for a cure than antibiotics - not a doctor, but just wondering?

  21. Abe,
    Good idea, think I will go thornless in the future. That solves all the problems.

    Don't know about blackberries but it might be worth looking into.
    This was all new to me and I appreciate your passing it on.

    I wouldn't hurt to wear gloves for all gardening as it can be in the dirt also. And here I thought gardening gloves were just to keep my hands nice. So glad you will now make the extra effort. Be safe.

    Linda Starr,
    I left a comment on your blog about sulfa. This creature is a fungus and antibiotics don't work on them. An antifungal is what is needed. The antibotics my doctor has me on are doing nothing. I hated going on the antifungals for they have a lot of side effects. Do hope you get checked out by a doctor. Good luck.

  22. This sounds pretty ghastly! I've not heard of it before. And I thank you for telling us all about it. I sure hope the Antibiotics they are giving you will do the trick...! But if not, that they then can find that little bit you didn't get and remove it--post haste! Good Luck, my dear.

  23. It is incredible to think a virus that lives on a rose could be so harmful. You have so many beautiful rose bushes on your place. I hope the antibiotics are quickly destroying the virus and your finger is returning to normal. If you need anything, I am just a hop, skip and a jump away.

  24. I think I had a related problem as yours but mine was caused by touching and caressing cactus. Yes, in my teenage life, my passion was collecting cactus of different variety and everyday, I touched them and caressed them as if they were my lovers. And in those days having lived in a remote area in my country where convenience was out of reach, there was no such thing as garden gloves. I grew up basically gardening with just bare hands.

    For all I knew, tiny particles of the cactus that were left undetected in my hands particularly my right hand thumb.

    Every night I moaned in pain; excruciating pain. But we could not see the culprit. My thumb looked red and swollen and soon a pus formed.

    My mother gathered some herbs and wrapped them in banana leaves and heat it over a live ember. Then re-wrapped it in gauze and applied it as a poultice over my infected thumb.

    It eased the pain until it subsided. The result was and is a deformed thumb.

    I don't know what infection it was for we were far from the doctor and void of any medical help.

    Thank you Ma'am Patti for alerting your experience because in my case, I did feel the pain traveled throughout my body that I just could not explain. If the swelling and the accumulation of the bacteria did not stop, it could surely travel through my heart and probably damaged my central nervous system.

    Thankfully my mother was resourceful and she did the best she could in the absence of medical or scientific cure.

  25. OOLOH,
    Thank you so much. I do believe they will have to go get that little piece and scrape the bone.
    It sure states the case for thornless roses doesn't it.

    Don't know about the finger but the antibotics are doing a great job on my sinuses.
    Pretty sure they will have to get that wayward piece out. Thank you so much for your hopping offer.

    Bonnie Bonsai,
    Wow, that sounded terrible. Most modern day "cures" come from home remedies that people handed down for years. They wouldn't have been handed down if they didn't work. You mother did a great job and most likely saved your life.

  26. Holy crow, Patti! I had no idea.

    I never wear gloves in the garden. Sometimes to clear brush and other heavier tasks, but other than that, no. I may reconsider this now. My nails are not the best but I always assumed it was from washing my hands SO many times a day. Might have to go the next step now.

    I handle hay every single day 4 or more times a day (unless I'm on vacation, of course). I'll pass this on to my Mrs as she usually handles the few roses we have.

    I assume this applies to wild roses as well?

    Kudos to your doctor for the diagnosis.

  27. Hi Patti! This is very bad! How are you now? Your finger looks awful. I hope that you will soon be okay!

  28. Barry,
    I do hope you go to gloves. I have gardened for 20 years before I got nailed. It only takes one time and it is so simple to prevent. Get the Mrs in a pair,please.Thank you.

    Reader Wil,
    Thank you. I think now that I have a doctor on my case, I will be fine. It will just be a long recovery. It was the first I had heard of it also and I have played with roses for years.

  29. Oh my gosh I am so grateful that I read this post I hope you are able to get this out to more readers. this is my first visit and won't be my last..

    Dorothy from grammology

  30. Merciful Heaven! I've never before heard of this, but I shall be more faithful in wearing my "rose gloves" when working in the yard. I'm passing this info on to my Gardening Daughter. She says she likes to "get her hands in the dirt" and hardly ever, ever wears gloves.

    That finger looks terrible; I can't imagine how it looked before it started to heal.

    Take care! Get better soon!

  31. Pat,
    This was new to me and pretty rare but so easy to prevent. You will never see me without gloves again.

  32. Hi i had to leave a comment as at the moment im going through the whole experience , my names mandi and im a gardener in which i look after about 16 people love it , but 4 wks ago go trashed by a rose thorn it went into my knucle and 4 wks later its still there .Symptons started painful legs ,but i will say ive had no ulcers. painful arms ,then it took out my back hips, now it is in my eyes neck ie lumps severe headackes, ive been to the doctors they are not sure if its this disease but 4 weeks on from being on top of my game ,i now feel 10 years older and having to go to bed every few hours as im exhausted,All gardeners be careful i had gloves on ,the thorn still got me take care Mandi Lincoln

  33. Hi just a note on this disease ,i may be the unlucky one with the full blown rose disease.Im Mandi and ive been gardening for people for 9 years.4 weeks ago i got tagged by a thorn which went into my knuckle,the first symptoms were my leg joints and muscles became painful,i have not got the ulcer though .Then last week had to go up to the hospital .All my joints gave out including my back, this week my joints arnt so painful but now its in my neck eyes,jaw and severe headaches.Ive not been diagnosed with rose disease as yet the doctors dont seem to know of it ,blood tests have been taken etc and one of the doctors have given me anti fungas drugs,i am still poorly as yet and very tierd,So gardeners be very careful i just thought you would all like to know this disease is out there Mandi

  34. I got several rose thorns in my arm 3 years ago, the beginning of a road to hell and back, had no idea you could get a deadly disease from it! After 2 years of being mis-diagnosed by numerous doctors, I went to the infectious disease clinic at the Colorado University Hospital in the East Denver area, took the doctor there 10 minutes to suspect sporotrichosis. At that point I had been on an anti-fungal, Fluconazole, for 5 months, which the doctor took me off of, to see if it would start to come back at that point. It has taken half a year, but new lesions are starting to form and the infection which had been very bad in my eyes, but the pain and white lesions on my eyes went away while on the anti-fungal, has now started to come back. The CU clinic has had a culture growing for a month and a half, at one month there was still no growth, so they were thinking they may be wrong, but in the last week growth has begun, there will be there for a followup next week, we shall see, but this thing nearly killed me. Just 6 weeks after the rose thorns I came down with pneumonia, barely survived it, then 3 months later I got pneumonia again. Now they suspect it all began due to the fungus, you get a fungal ball, which then becomes infected with bacteria. I got sores al over me before a local doctor put me on the anti-fungal, based on what it looked like but they were not able to culture it, which turns out to not be an uncommon thing, if the lab does not suspect it. The medicine really helped, healed all the sores. One thing you need to know, without oral anti-fungals, sporotrichosis will eventually kill you, it may take a year or 10 years, everyone is different. In my case it appears that it went systemic on me right after I had some teeth pulled, so it got into my blood, sinuses, eyes, etc. But it is a pernicious disease and can be very hard to diagnose by doctors who are completely unfamiliar with it, same goes for labs. If it is still in your system, it is like a time bomb, waiting for your immune system to start failing to control it. It has a way of suppressing your immune system for its own survival, it is complicated and there are many sub species of sporothrix schenckii, even on rose bushes, is is also carried by cats, horses get it a lot, not to mention veterinarians. So beware of those rose thorns, they can and do kill people! Not in a good or fast way at that.The anti-fungals are hard on your liver, but not as hard as the fungus, so take it if you get infected, it is your only hope, you just cannot be lured by the slowness of the disease into doing nothing until your body is eaten up with it. Pneumonia is one of the first big events caused by the infection, usually within a few months, so take heed.