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.

Rose picker’s disease

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 gets bigger and starts to look like an open sore.
  3. More bumps or sores might appear in the near vicinity of the original bump.

Treatment

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, your 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

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.

Treatment

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

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.

Treatment

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.

Takeaway

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.