Childhood molluscum contagiosum: experience with cantharidin therapy in 300 patients

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 Sep;43(3):503-7. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2000.106370.


Background: Molluscum contagiosum (MC) is a common cutaneous infection in children. Cantharidin, a chemovesicant that is highly effective in treating MC, has lost favor with some physicians because of concerns over its safety.

Objective: We attempted to determine the safety, efficacy, and parental satisfaction of cantharidin therapy for MC in children who were treated in a pediatric dermatology clinic at a large referral hospital.

Methods: A total of 537 charts of children who presented with MC were reviewed. We found 300 children who were treated with cantharidin and who had parents available for telephone interview, which was performed in addition to chart review.

Results: With cantharidin therapy, 90% of patients experienced clearing and 8% improved. The average number of treatment visits was 2.1. Blisters occurred at sites of application in 92% of patients. Temporary burning, pain, erythema, or pruritus was reported in 6% to 37% of patients. No major side effects were reported, and no patients experienced secondary bacterial infection. A total of 95% of parents reported they would proceed with cantharidin therapy again.

Conclusion: To our knowledge ours is the largest retrospective series of childhood MC treated with cantharidin. In these patients the therapy was extremely effective and well tolerated, and parental satisfaction was high. Cantharidin is a safe and effective therapy for MC in children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blister / chemically induced
  • Cantharidin / adverse effects
  • Cantharidin / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Erythema / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Irritants / adverse effects
  • Irritants / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Molluscum Contagiosum / drug therapy*
  • Molluscum Contagiosum / pathology
  • Pain / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Irritants
  • Cantharidin